SYRACUSE — The pandemic has been a period filled with pivots and constant reinvention for every business sector, especially the restaurant industry. After Défi Cuisine, of which Nick Salvetti was co-owner, closed during the pandemic, he and his wife, Laurie Salvetti, put their efforts into rebranding and exploring a concept more in line with the changing pandemic reality.
They are now co-owners of Board & Bar Charcuterie, which they say is Syracuse’s first and only restaurant centered entirely around the charcuterie-board approach to dining.
“We needed to change and to adapt to the new normal,” Nick says. “I don’t think it’s going to ever change back. I think people will always be a little more leery about it.”
Before the pandemic, Défi Cuisine had developed a reputation of being a fine-dining restaurant, “a destination,” Nick says. The concept — very intimate dining in an open kitchen, in which customers interacted with the chef — simply did not lend itself to take-out or outdoor seating, the new staples of pandemic-era dining.
“It was the perfect time to make changes,” he says.
Board & Bar Charcuterie opened earlier this summer at 208 W. Water St. in downtown Syracuse, the space that once housed Défi Cuisine. It offers a variety of meal options, all delivered to patrons on charcuterie boards.
The concept was inspired by the Salvettis’ own approach to food. Not only do their eating habits include a lot of proteins, cheeses, and vegetables — the charcuterie board basics — but they found themselves picking at an assortment of options, rather than sitting down for traditional full meals.
“We would catch ourselves eating the smorgasbord at home,” Laurie says with a laugh.
So, they created similar options for their customers. People dining at Board & Bar Charcuterie get to choose from a range of charcuterie options, like traditional, seafood, and vegan boards. The menu even includes a handful of dessert boards, as well as, on the weekends, a variety of brunch boards.
The goal is to offer a multitude of options with every board — each of which has an assortment of different items — bringing customers back again and again. Thus far, their clientele has run the gamut, from younger to older diners and families as well. Sensitive to dietary restrictions, the Salvettis aim to have something for everyone.
“Each bite can be something different,” Nick says.
The owners are hoping their charcuterie-board concept will give patrons the chance to connect with each other while they share a meal, something people certainly missed during the worst of the pandemic.
“The overall concept gives people the opportunity to interact with one another,” Laurie says.
They hope to encourage this with the restaurant’s look and feel, as well. While the open-kitchen layout remains — with the chef located in the center of the action - they are aiming for a relaxed, casual feel, they say. Board & Bar Charcuterie also has outdoor seating it unveiled in August, with music and string lights at night.
For those not comfortable with dining in a restaurant setting, the team created the charcuterie boards with to-go orders in mind, making them easily packed as take-out options.
While the pandemic hit the restaurant industry particularly hard — an industry that was already risky to enter during normal times, with high failure rates — it provided the ideal backdrop for an establishment like Board & Bar Charcuterie. The exact timing was fortuitous. When restrictions began to ease and restaurants opened beyond take-out only, Board & Bar Charcuterie opened its doors.
“It helped out and worked in our favor, being something new and exciting for people to look forward to,” Laurie says.
Now, even with the possibility of more pandemic restrictions and changes coming in the fall, the duo is confident their charcuterie-board business model will see success — even if they are forced to offer take-out only.
Along with the pandemic timing being opportune in some ways, the Salvettis are happy to be a part of the revitalization they see in downtown Syracuse, as well.
In terms of the restaurant industry, Nick remarked that in the past four or five years, there seem to be many more different restaurant options in the downtown-restaurant scene. With the millennial and younger generations having developed a less fine-dining approach to deciding where to gather for dinner, he predicts those changes will continue.
“It’s fun to be on the cusp of something here, where things are changing,” Nick says. “You can feel it. People want a new concept and something that’s different.”