Chef Chat, Part 1: Paul Petronella of Paulie's Talks Family, Longevity, And Good Coffee
Photo by Mai Pham Paul Petronella has known the inside of an Italian kitchen since he was toddler.
This is the first part of a two-part Chef Chat interview. Check back with us tomorrow to read Part 2.
When we talk about neighborhood restaurants around town, Paulie's on Westheimer has been a Montrose staple for years. Celebrating its 15th year in business this year, the casual Italian restaurant offers a menu of pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and classic Italian favorites like ossobuco and lasagna that have cultivated a steady, regular crowd, who visit as much for the comfort of and consistency as much as they do for convenience.
Now, with the recent expansion to include an adjacent wine bar -- Camerata at Paulie's -- there's even more reason to visit frequently. The wildly successful wine bar, a favorite among industry and sommeliers around town, has once again placed Paulie's in the spotlight, and with it, Paulie's owner, namesake, and chef, Paul Petronella, the subject the of this week's Chef Chat.
EOW: Tell me about Paul Petronella.
PP: I come from a large Italian restaurant family. I was a toddler running around the hot line of my uncle's restaurant where Dad worked the line, my aunt was the hostess, and my two uncles were the business partners.
EOW: Was that here in Houston?
PP: It was called D'Amico's.
EOW: You're part of the D'Amico's family?
PP: Nash D'Amico is my cousin. Brina, his daughter, is my age. Brina and I were pretty close as kids.
EOW: So, you grew up in the D'Amico's kitchen in the village?
PP: No, this was way early, in the '80's. Nash D'Amico and my two uncles, Charles and Frank Petronella, owned this full-service Italian restaurant on Westheimer near Kirby. So I've just always been around that kitchen scene. Dad would always come home smelling like the kitchen. Then, my parents opened this place, Paulie's, in 1998.
EOW: Did you have aspirations to go into the family business?
PP: That was the idea. I helped them open. I worked the front, the kitchen -- I did everything that could possibly be done. I was 21 at the time. I was going to Southwest Texas in San Marcos, about 30 minutes outside of Austin. While school was out and I was in town, I worked here. I actually left San Marcos to work here full time for about a year and went to U of H for a semester, but I got burned out living in Houston, going to school inHouston, and working in Houston. So, I went to to San Marcos to finish my degree, then a year and a half later came back to run a Paulie's location that we had in Galveston at the time.
EOW: So, for people who don't know about it, what is Paulie's? For people who don't live around this area [Montrose and River Oaks]?
PP: We're definitely a neighborhood restaurant. We like to keep it that way. We still do the same thing after 15 years. We're not trying to be something that we're not -- which is why I think some restaurants might fail. We're just a neighborhood, casual Italian restaurant that does food fresh and consistent every time.