By Elisabetta Silvestro
The Cafeteria’s neighboring restaurant got its annual makeover and opened its new doors on Aug. 27 as Radius 99 to the hungry City College students who now can get local food prepared by their fellow students from the culinary arts department.
It was 11:20 a.m., and while Sly and the Family Stone, a ‘70s San Francisco band, played through the speakers, the students and instructors of the culinary program were making sure everything was ready for their first day of opening.
Fifteen minutes after the scheduled time, at 11:25, Radius 99 was open and operating. The first clients said they’ll miss Dot’s, but they liked the new food.
“It sounds interesting,” student Patrick Haney said. “The 99 mile thing is pretty cool.”
Every fall, Smith Hall’s restaurant gets renewed with a new theme. Last year, it was Dot’s Diner, for an all-American dining experience. This year, the theme rotates around the proximity of the produce.
Everything has to come from a 100-mile radius, music included – that’s why it’s called Radius 99.
The students from the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies department manage everything, from the food preparation to the serving, under the supervision of instructors Vince Paratore and Keith Hammerich, who decided the restaurant’s theme and menu.
“Students do everything. I just make sure they don’t bring the place down,” Paratore said. “In the morning we have lecture, then we come here, then we go back to class,” he said. “It’s fun isn’t it?”
While Paratore handles the management side of the operation, Hammerich takes care of the kitchen – he’s the chef of Radius 99.
The menu they crafted is multi-ethnic and affordable. They offer sandwiches, salads and main dishes for a range that goes from $5.25 for a grilled cheese sandwich, which features fromage blanc, jack, caramelized onions and apples and house-made apple-walnut sourdough, to a $6.25 Thai pork with broccoli, cashews and rice noodles.
The restaurant is open Monday to Friday for lunch, from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
The first week’s manager, third-semester culinary student Stephanie Marinese, said the idea of Radius 99 is to serve food made with local produce with a variety of plates to fulfill almost all ethnicities.
As the concept changes, the students’ roles changes too. Every week their duties rotate so that everyone can learn a wide range of restaurant jobs.
It’s been five years since the instructors decided to change the theme of the restaurant every fall. The first one was a noodle bar, then a taqueria, a mediterranean restaurant and eventually Dot’s Diner.
Hammerich said they realized changing the concept kept things fresh and the students challenged. This time, though, they might keep Radius 99 for longer, since it’s not a particular cuisine, Hammerich said, and change the menu based on the seasons.
“It’s a hope that we’ll be able to take this concept and bring it to the Cafeteria,” he said. “It’s more the spirit than anything else.”
Three days after the opening the outcome seemed positive.
“People came and we had some good sales,” Marinese said.