Derek Krissinger is re-inventing the classics at Pietro’s Prime.
Let’s start with an open-ended question: tell me about yourself. I’m 27, been working in town for eight years, at Pietro’s for six. Started out at Limoncello, was at Teca, then moved to Nonna’s and Pietro’s.
How about outside of work? I just moved into the new Chestnut Square Apartments which are great. I’ve been hosting people as often as I can.
What’s the most important thing you do as a host? I think it’s the cocktails I make. I like to think outside the box for different recipes and accompanying dishes.
So, you’re even a mixologist in your spare time. Oh yeah. I do it as often as I possibly can. It’s just like cooking: you constantly need to improve your techniques and ingredients. I always try to bring complexity to my cocktails. Some cocktails have been around forever, and even those I’m trying to elevate with new techniques.
For instance… the Old Fashioned: instead of muddling oranges and cherries—which I think is distracting when you’re getting bits of fruit in each sip—I do mine in a mixing pitcher. I just take an orange slice, orange bitters, and a simple syrup I make with Sugar in the Raw. I use rye bourbon, and instead of shaking it, which dilutes the drink faster, I use a mixing spoon, then pour it over fresh ice. I take a fresh lemon peel and wrap it around a Luxardo cherry and then smoke that with a lighter.
You smoke the lemon? When you squeeze the rind, the juice is actually flammable, so when you take a lighter to that, it adds some more smoke flavor.
Wow. Anything else up your sleeve? The other cocktail I do that’s very popular is our espresso martini—I think it’s one of
the best in town. I use real espresso, vanilla vodka, and a few other ingredients which I won’t divulge because I want people to come try it for themselves.
If I was gonna come try that, when is the best time? Fridays it’s me, Andrew Giunta and Neil Felegy; it’s a good crew.
We’ve got a great happy hour, too: Monday-Friday, 5-7pm we do a dollar off any drink and half-priced appetizers, which include the black and white tuna and the calamari, and our parmesan truffle fries which we sell so many of.
What’s something you’d like everyone to know about you? I’m very family-oriented and really close with my parents. And, since I’ve been here for six years, the Pietro’s employees have become like my second family. We’re a really close-knit group because the restaurant has extremely low turnover—we’ve got a lot of people that’ve been here since day one—nine years.
Do you think that’s noticed by the customers? Absolutely. We have a huge following of regulars because of that family environment. When someone comes in, I know what they drink, I know their wife’s name and their kid’s name. When you’ve got someone’s drink waiting when they sit down, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. Good customer service, good cocktails, good food—that’s Pietro’s.
Photography: Sabina Sister
Interview: Dan Mathers