Pizzeria Paradiso changing hands, name

  • Andrew Brow, who is buying Pizzeria Paradiso and changing its name to HighBrow, stands by the restaurant’s wood-fired oven, Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pizzeria Paradiso at 12 Crafts Avenue in Northampton, Friday, Aug. 2, 2019. In September, its new ownership will retool the restaurant and change its name to HighBrow. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2019 11:57:45 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When he was around 10 years old, Andrew Brow went to Pizzeria Paradiso. As he was watching one of the cooks work, their eyes met and something special happened: The cook threw him a pizza dough.

“I caught it, and I threw it back up to him,” he said. “He made that my pizza and cooked it.”

Fast forward to today and Brow, 34, is the soon-to-be new owner of Pizzeria Paradiso, which he will retool and rename HighBrow Wood Fired Kitchen + Bar after he assumes ownership of the business in September.

“It’s almost life becoming full circle,” Brow said.

A graduate of Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School, Brow said that the first time his class from JFK Middle School toured Smith Vocational, he knew he wanted to go there, after he got a look at its kitchen.

Brow, who lived in Forest Park in Springfield before moving to Northampton when he was 10, said he grew up being exposed to different types of food, including Vietnamese food from families in the Forest Park neighborhood and a Dutch-Indonesian pre-school teacher who had shitake mushroom logs in her yard, and who taught him and his class how to roll sushi. He also credits Northampton’s status as a “funky food town.”

Currently, Brow manages Pizzeria Paradiso, Mama Iguana’s and Spoleto Restaurant for Pizzeria Paradiso’s founder, Claudio Guerra.

Brow first started working for Guerra when he was 16 at Spoleto Express, and he went on to work in restaurants in such places as North Carolina and East Longmeadow.

He assumed his current position working for Guerra in January of this year. Guerra was also in Brow’s wedding.

Of Brow, Guerra said, “He’s a passionate, talented, chef.”

Another key figure in Brow’s career was Bill Collins, who first hired him at Spoleto Express. Brow worked for Collins at Center Square Grill in East Longmeadow before coming to work for Guerra in his current position.

While the plan was originally for Brow and Guerra to become partners in the ownership of Pizzeria Paradiso, Brow ended up making the decision to buy it outright.

“I’m not a rich kid,” he said. “This is all the eggs in the basket.”

“It’s time for some fresh blood,” said Guerra, of the sale. “What the restaurant really deserves is to have an owner-operator.”

Guerra said he will still own the building and he’s not leaving the restaurant business.

“I’ve got young kids,” said Guerra. “I’ll be doing this for a while.”

The home of Pizzeria Paradiso on Crafts Avenue was the original location for Spoleto, but Guerra said he will not miss it, because he’ll get to eat there now and only focus on enjoying his food. He said he and Brow have worked out a deal that they’ll get to eat at each other’s restaurants for free.

“I am driven by my fear of failure,” said Brow, on whether he is nervous about buying the restaurant. “I’ve seen a lot of places go down and I’ve seen a lot of places skyrocket to the top.”

On why he’s not just keeping the old name, Brow said, “because it’s not the old restaurant. It’s a new restaurant, it’s a new vision, new concept. It’s going to look completely different.”

Brow said he chose the name HighBrow as a combination of his name and because the definition of highbrow is “rarefied, sophisticated and taste.” However, he chose to put a wood-fired oven on the restaurant’s logo so that the impression wouldn’t be given that it’s a fine dining establishment. He also said the name was originally devised by former city councilor and friend Jesse Adams.

At the center of the HighBrow concept are Pizzeria Paradiso’s two wood-fired ovens, imported from Italy.

“That’s the basis of my restaurant,” he said.

When the restaurant becomes HighBrow, it will keep using one of them to make pizzas, while the other will be used to cook “wood fire-inspired creative American food.”

“I’m going to use that other oven to bake macaroni and cheese, I’m going to use that oven to roast half chickens, to roast oysters, to roast chicken wings, olives, fish, vegetables, potatoes,” he said.

Of Brow’s concept Guerra said, “It’s the right way to go.”

Brow said some of the pies at Pizzeria Paradiso will stay on the menu at HighBrow, while others will be eliminated, although he declined to say which ones would survive.

“I can’t disclose that,” he said.

Brow said all the current staff at Pizzeria Paradiso will be staying, and he will also be expanding it, including bringing on a pastry chef who will make desserts as well as bake the restaurant’s dinner rolls and brioche hamburger rolls in the wood-fired oven.

Pizzeria Paradiso is already working with local farmers and suppliers, and Brow said that this will continue under HighBrow. Doubleday Farm in Hadley will provide vegetables, Pioneer Valley Charcuterie Team will come in to provide bacon and sausage, HillTown Grazers in Goshen will provide pork, and all potatoes will be supplied by Szawlowski Potato Farms. Fish will come courtesy of BerkShore.

HighBrow will be open for lunch and dinner, seven days a week, and will feature daily specials. And Brow expressed the desire for it to not become a “special occasions restaurant.”

“Being a special occasions restaurant is like tying a noose,” he said. “You’re going to be busy Friday and Saturday night only.”

Prices will range from $8 to $12 on appetizers. For meals, individual pies will range from $11 to $14, while the burger offered will be $13 and come on a bun baked in the wood-fired oven and a side of garlic fries.

The most expensive item on the menu will be a $28 pepper corn-encrusted New York strip steak, which will be served with a Szawlowski Hasselback potato and roasted garlic rosemary bone marrow butter and HighBrow roasted vegetables.

“I’m going to bring something exciting to the table,” Brow said.

Brow said he has developed relationships with a number of different Northampton restaurant owners, and said he’s looking to spearhead bringing back the Taste of Northampton.

“Be on the lookout next year for Taste of Northampton coming back,” he said.

While he said that Northampton is still the premier center for art in the Pioneer Valley, when it comes to food, “We need to put our heads down and work a little bit here.”

On the expanding recreational marijuana business in Northampton, Brow said that once the law clarifies the rules around it, he will look to partner with NETA to do a marijuana-infused dinner.

“Any business that’s bringing people to town is good business,” said Brow, on Northampton becoming a recreational marijuana destination.

Brow and his wife, Alyn McDermott, live in Longmeadow, but he said that they would consider moving to be closer to his work.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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