ROME, N.Y. — New tenants in the Air City Lofts apartments at Griffiss Business & Technology Park in Rome will soon have a new, nearby dining option.
Crust Kitchen & Bar is the first restaurant tenant at the 300-unit apartment complex, which recently celebrated the grand opening of its first phase. And with 84 full apartments right there, the restaurant is getting ready to open its doors soon.
Owners Chris Destito and Frank Belmont are anticipating a late July or early August opening for Crust, which will feature sandwiches, bowls, charcuterie boards, and a full-service bar that specializes in bourbon.
The restaurant is their vision of what their ideal restaurant would be — an idea born of many “If I owned a restaurant” sessions and a glass or two of bourbon, they say. Both owners work in management at Destito’s family’s restaurant, The Savoy, in Rome.
About two years ago, the pair started talking seriously about opening their own restaurant together, and the perfect opportunity arose when the Air City Lofts project began moving forward. The loft project is being rolled out in four phases, with each stage consisting of first-floor commercial space and three floors of apartments above.
Crust’s owners knew they wanted to do something different and saw a need for sandwiches in particular. However, they didn’t want to serve up the same old sandwiches as any other place.
“We definitely have different twists on most things,” Belmont contends. Along with fun names — like The Negotiator — he says they are using top quality ingredients and roasting all their own deli meats on site.
Destito and Belmont received financing for their restaurant from Adirondack Bank, and as a token of appreciation, they even named one of their sandwiches The Banksy. Along with prosciutto di parma and fresh mozzarella, the sandwich also comes with the tagline, “We still don’t know how we convinced them to give us money to open a restaurant during a pandemic, but they did and this sandwich is in their honor. We need to sell a lot of them to pay them back, so maybe buy two of them next time you’re in.”
The COVID-19 pandemic did not deter the owners, Destito says, because their restaurant vision was always one of an eatery with few employees, low overhead, and a lot of good takeout options.
“We also wanted to have a bar atmosphere,” he adds. However, Crust’s bar scene is low key, focusing on a wide selection of bourbons, rather than a rowdy, party atmosphere.
Crust, located at 86 Hangar Road, features a 400-square-foot patio that can seat about 20 people, plus 1,728 square feet inside with seating for about 36.
Destito says the location is ideal, with tenants from the surrounding apartments hopefully becoming steady customers. In addition, the businesses in the business park employ about 6,000 people that he hopes will be stopping in for lunch, dinner, or an after-work drink.
“We hope to draw as many people as possible,” he says.
To date, the owners have relied a lot on word-of-mouth marketing as well as social-media presences on Facebook and Instagram to get the word out about Crust. The recent open-house event for the apartments helped build some anticipation and excitement as well, Destito notes.
Crust (www.crustkitchencny.com) is working with C & D Advertising of Utica for all its marketing. “I think we’re doing pretty well as far as the word being out there,” Belmont says. The owners plan to ramp up marketing efforts once the restaurant is closer to opening.
The restaurant is currently hiring bartenders, cashiers, and sandwich makers. Belmont says they are looking to hire about seven people, with a mix of full- and part-time positions.