Located right in the middle of the burgeoning Gowanus food scene, Runner & Stone stands out for being a restaurant and bakery that sources its ingredients locally and makes all of its breads, pastries, and pastas in house. And perhaps none of this would be particularly notable if the food weren’t also the kind of food that you can’t stop thinking about when you’re not actually eating it.
It might not be much of a surprise that Executive Chef Chris Pizzulli (formerly of Blue Ribbon Bakery) and Head Baker Peter Endriss (formerly of Per Se and Bouchon Bakery) are capable of creating such craveable cuisine, but it is nevertheless an incredibly welcome addition to a neighborhood like Gowanus that's enjoying a culinary and cultural renaissance. In fact, Endriss says that the reason he and Pizzulli were drawn there was its strong sense of cohesiveness: “Gowanus has a strong sense of community, we were looking to open a ‘neighborhood’ restaurant, so we assumed—correctly, it turns out—that we could develop a solid group of regulars in this area, something that is important to us. This historic location reminds us of a time when food, including primary ingredients, was largely sourced and produced locally.” Runner & Stone was immediately embraced by the neighborhood when it opened in December of 2012, which it's testament not only to the close-knit community in which its located but also to the dedication and skill of Endriss, Pizzulli, and the entire staff. With a kitchen that’s open every day from 7:30am to 11pm, the restaurant is staffed for a full 24 hours a day in order for it to operate as smoothly as it does. So while it’s quickly become a spot where Brooklynites go to relax and enjoy the ethereal baked goods and delectable roast chicken, I learned there’s no real relaxation for the chefs. “One of the biggest challenges of making everything in house is that there are only 24-hours in the day,” Endriss tells me with a smile. We can all just ourselves the lucky beneficiaries of a challenge accepted.
What does "Runner & Stone" mean?
“Runner & Stone” refers to the two stones used to grind grain in a traditional mill, the runner stone and the base stone. The traditional mill is an important icon to us because it symbolizes our philosophy while grounding us in our neighborhood. Runner & Stone is located in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, only a few blocks away from the site of the first tide water grist mill in New York City. This historic location reminds us of a time when food, including primary ingredients, was largely sourced and produced locally.
What brought you to Gowanus?
See above, plus: The Gowanus neighborhood has a strong sense of community and we were looking to open a “neighborhood” restaurant so we assumed (correctly, it turns out), that we could develop a solid group of regulars in this area, something that is important to us. Also, the Gowanus is located between Carroll Gardens and Park Slope, two neighborhoods with a proven love of a good dining scene.
Do you feel like a part of any larger Brooklyn restaurant scene? Is it a close-knit community?
Yes, we do, since there are so many food-centric events now in Brooklyn and we try to get involved when we can. It is a close-knit community, but it does seem to segregate a little by neighborhood and/or genre. Luckily, we’re right across the street from two great (and very different) restaurants, so we have our own little “micro-“community right here.
Your breads and baked goods are a focal point of the restaurant, what are some of the challenges of doing everything in-house? What are some of the benefits?
One of the biggest challenges of making everything in house is that there are only 24 hours in the day. Since everything’s made fresh daily, we spend a lot of time, and have to have a lot of staff, just to get our full range of product out every day. Unlike a conventional restaurant that is staffed from say, 8am to midnight, we are staffed almost a full 24 hours due to the baking aspect, so you need a certain number of employees just to cover 24 hours, 7 days a week. In addition, many of our employees need to be cross-trained, so we have bakers making pasta, cooks plating desserts, coffee baristas serving drinks, etc. and that means a higher level of training and investment in every employee. The benefits are certainly worth it though because we have full control of the
quality of our ingredients and the range and quality of our products. It would be difficult, for example, to source fresh pasta made with local eggs and organic flour, or specialty breads that complement the menu items we design.
What are your favorite things to make to eat for yourself when you're off the clock?
I think that Chris and I both tend towards our heritage when we cook off the clock, so we both cook a lot of Italian and I tend towards German food, while he enjoys cooking Dominican food.
You're open for three-meals a day—does that allow Runner and Stone to be a real neighborhood stalwart?
I’d like to believe so. We certainly see familiar faces for breakfast every day, and regulars in the dining room at night. A funny aspect of providing three meals a day is that some of our regulars are only in the neighborhood at a certain time each day, so they are completely unaware of our other services. For example, we’ll have a regular
that comes in for dinner each week, but he or she will be surprised to learn that we are a bread and pastry shop in the morning.
What has been the most rewarding part of this experience thus far?
Being surprised by the level of dedication of our employees and the graciousness of our regulars — two things that every restaurant owner hopes for, but feels too lucky to actually receive.
Runner & Stone; 285 3rd Avenue
Runner & Stone