Ian Graye’s concept is easy: “I wish to basically make a restaurant that I’d get pleasure from working at and one which I’d wish to come to if I wasn’t working.”
He’s turning out Italian-inspired, vegan dishes on the cozy Pietramala, a BYOB that opened earlier this month on Second Road above Spring Backyard in Northern Liberties.
Every little thing is seasonal, and he and his employees pivot to what’s out there from native farms like Taproot, Inexperienced Meadow, and Robin Hill.
The lettuce salad substances at some point final week, for instance, included shaved kohlrabi, purple Bordeaux radish, inexperienced tomato, fennel, mint, dill, and basil, topped with a French dressing produced from younger ginger and ginger vinegar. The heirloom polenta tasted like the colour inexperienced, if you’ll; constructed on a puree of greens and made creamy with cave-aged cultured cashew cheese from Bandit Cheese, it featured wood-oven-roasted spigarello, bok choy rabe and Swiss chard, after which was topped with child greens for texture.
Graye makes use of no pretend meats or processed meals. “Yearly, there’s a brand new vegan product, a brand new, higher, quote unquote, vegan meat,” he mentioned. “I don’t wish to eat that. I wish to eat greens. I need it to be actual meals that anybody can get pleasure from, not simply vegans.”
Graye, 37, grew up in Queens, consuming “just about near a vegetarian weight loss program.” He mentioned he has been vegan since 2009. “I view these items as a private selection now, and I don’t choose anybody for what their private decisions are of their weight loss program, whether or not they’re vegan however typically they struggle issues or they wish to go to their grandma’s home and have Thanksgiving,” he mentioned. “I really feel like folks shouldn’t actually field themselves in a lot and simply actually reside their lives as greatest they will.”
He doesn’t abide what he calls “militant” voices on the carnivore facet. “Come on, can’t we simply take a look at this as a private factor and depart one another alone?” he mentioned. “Or attempt to simply settle for different folks’s decisions and perhaps say ‘Tonight I’m going to do that vegan restaurant. And you already know what? I appreciated it. I appreciated what they have been doing.’”
His first restaurant job was dishes at Brooklyn’s Champs Diner, a vegan vacation spot, working his method as much as chef de delicacies. Subsequent got here Pickle Shack, the Brooklyn veggie sandwich store; there, he was beneath chef Neal Harden, who introduced Graye with him to his subsequent cease, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s splashy all-vegan abcV in Manhattan. Then he landed with chef Marco Canora for 2 years, breaking his vegan streak by cooking Tuscan-style meals at Fireside within the East Village.
“I felt my coaching was changing into a bit redundant,” he mentioned. “I needed to expertise how non-vegan cooks would strategy vegetarian and vegan cooking. I actually realized quite a bit. Fireside used plenty of greens and I acquired to see fascinating methods of making ready greens and making ready greens like meat, which isn’t one thing that plenty of vegan cooks take into consideration.”
His remaining New York cease was Blue Hill in Upstate New York, till the pandemic left him unemployed. He determined to maneuver to Philadelphia, the place he has household. “I needed to decelerate and calm down,” he mentioned. “The restaurant life there may be very tough. Every little thing is so costly, all the pieces is so small.”
In Philadelphia, his pal ran Foto Membership, a social membership in Kensington. Graye was given the meals truck within the again, rent-free, to prepare dinner meals for bar patrons. Graye known as it Moto Foto and folks began coming in. “They have been very stunned about what this one man was making out of this little truck,” he mentioned. One early buyer was Mark Mebus, who owned Blackbird and twentieth Road Pizza. Mebus was trying to promote Blackbird, in Northern Liberties. Graye labored there till the deal was remaining.
The house, at 614 N. Second St., has housed eating places for about twenty years: LionFish, a espresso home, adopted by Aden, Copper Bistro, and Koo Zee Doo earlier than Blackbird.
He’s backed within the kitchen by sous chef Jack Barrett and pastry chef Jeremy Hrycko. Common supervisor Shakur Armstrong oversees the everyday.
However he’s about sharing the credit score. “I labored for well-known cooks, and I see them take plenty of recognition for concepts and creativity,” he mentioned. “I assume that’s simply the way it works. However I needed to essentially do one thing for myself and create the atmosphere for my employees that I needed to work in as a prepare dinner — which simply actually encourages creativity and communication and being open and simply having a wholesome atmosphere. I simply wish to create a spot the place folks love working, and they might have a extremely laborious time leaving as a result of they beloved it.”
Pietramala is open Tuesday to Saturday for dinner, and there’s a $20 charge per bottle. The constructing isn’t absolutely wheelchair-accessible.