Peter Botros is someone that I got to know very well last year when I first dined at his establishment Violette’s Cellar. I rarely head outside Manhattan, let alone my own borough, so I knew it was going to be a trek to get to Staten Island but it was worth it in the end as the food and experience was nothing short of stellar. Then I got to know Peter and it only enhanced my view of his location and what a great guy he is.
Peter has established himself as a force to be reckoned with in and out of Staten Island. In 2018 alone he opened two new locations that run the gamut when it comes to how delicious food can really be: Corner House BBQ and Sofia’s Taqueria Taco and Tequila Bar. Not too shabby.
He’s also been welcomed into the world of The James Beard Foundation, something that never happens to chefs in Staten Island, has won a bunch of awards and has kept his cool amid all the craziness around him.
For our January edition of our Chef spotlight series, we dive a little further into the man known as Peter Botros and how he got to where he is now. Take a look.
What got you into the culinary world in the first place?
Since I was a little kid, I always loved food. Not just for eating but watching the love and care my mother or grandmother put into preparing the food and how noticeable it was that the more love and care went into the food, the better it tasted. Early on I began experimenting with different food combinations and styles of cooking… with the help of my mother and a step stool of course.
Did you draw inspiration from anyone that you saw on television?
While other kids were watching cartoons, I was fascinated with cooking shows on The Food Network and Cooking Channel. I was always interested in learning about the different genres of food and how different they could all be, but at the same time it seemed that all the different cultures had their own versions of the same dish! think pasta, lo mein, spaetzle, or sandwiches, panini, taco, gyro. All so very different but all so very similar in nature.
2018 has obviously been a huge year for you out in Staten Island. Do you have a moment you are most proud of?
2018 has been a complete whirlwind! I still have no idea how my team and I were able to pull off all of the crazy things we were able to do and achieve. 2018 saw us open 3 new restaurants: Corner House BBQ, Binnekill Tavern (Margaretville NY in the Catskills), and Sofia’s Taqueria. Three of our restaurants were featured at the 2018 New York City Wine & Food Festival while winning numerous awards, accolades and garnering an overwhelming amount of media coverage.
But the crowning highlights for me were the THREE separate occasions where I was selected to cook for the prestigious James Beard Foundation! We cooked a dinner at The James Beard House in February, was a featured chef at the JBF “Chef’s and Champagne” event in July, and most recently we hosted a Friends of James Beard Foundation Dinner at one of my restaurants, Violette’s Cellar in November! That marked the 1st time The James Beard Foundation has ever held an event in Staten Island!
What can you tell Manhattan Digest readers about Violette’s Cellar and The Stone House?
Violette’s Cellar is an amazing restaurant and event space that is named after my late mother. She passed away 18 years ago from cancer, so I wanted to honor her love and care for people. My partners Phil Farinacci and Marc Zurlo both have parents that have beaten cancer and together we decided to make a commitment that the restaurants purpose is not that of just profitability, but also of philanthropy.
We made a pledge to Staten Island University Hospital to donate $250,000 over the course of 7 years to go toward the construction of a state-of-the-art comprehensive cancer center. The cancer center will be the first of its kind and a much-needed improvement to cancer treatment and care for Staten Island residents.
But enough of the mushy stuff, the food is tapas style food service but within the scope of contemporary American food. The menu is designed for people to share small plates or large plates while enjoying the wine cellar atmosphere, a Sommelier curated wine list and hand-crafted mixology driven cocktails. Violette’s Cellar also houses “The Button Room”, a password only speakeasy bar, hidden behind a sliding bookcase, a six-seat private wine room that features several wine paired chef’s dinners, and several private event spaces.
The Stone House at Clove Lakes is a fairytale setting for a meal or special events. We serve gourmet contemporary American fare in a gorgeous historic stone building situated in the heart of Clove Lakes Park. The restaurant is surrounded by water and has gorgeous views of the park. Within the Stone House, we have a restaurant within a restaurant… Chef’s Loft at The Stone House. Chef’s Loft is my playground. I cook a 5-course wine paired dinner in the intimate loft that seats up to 16 people. I change the menu twice a month and never repeat any dishes. It’s a place for me to express my culinary creativity while having the ability to interact and connect with the guests so closely. The Stone House hosts many weddings, engagement parties, showers, and corporate events.
Sofia’s Taqueria Taco and Tequila Bar is a curated design masterpiece. We sourced local art as well as handcrafted tiles and adornments straight from Mexico. We feature over 100 Tequilas and Mezcals, and Incredible craft cocktail program and killer tacos and Mexican fare down to house made tortillas. Sofia’s also features a one of a kind “Guacamole Bar” where patrons can sit and watch freshly made guacamole to service the restaurant’s 3 floors as well as order their own customized Guacamole.
Do you find it hard for Manhattanites to make the trek to Staten Island, even if the food is good or not?
I opened The Stone House in October of 2014, and for the first 2 years, it was apparent that the people of Staten Island were not visiting our fantastic restaurant! But after the restaurant received tons of media attention, I noticed that we were getting a growing number of Brooklynites and Manhattanites coming to enjoy our beautiful venue.
I also noticed we were getting many patrons coming from other boroughs after we opened Violette’s Cellar. Same applies for Corner House BBQ. New York has certainly made a recent push for national recognition in the national BBQ scene. After winning the New York City BBQ Cook Off, we made it clear that our BBQ was the real deal and people make the trek from all over the tri state area to get a taste! Sofia’s opened recently and we have received a ton of press for it already.
Being selected for the numerous James Beard events certainly helped get my name out there and peak the interests of foodies off Staten Island.
What do you have coming up in 2019 that you are most excited about?
I’m going to try to top what I did after such an amazing 2018! There are certainly a few things we know for sure will be great events and accomplishments. We have been asked to cook yet another James Beard Dinner at The James Beard House in mid to late April. The date will be released soon. We also have already announced that Corner House BBQ will be opening its 2nd Location in Staten Island’s Restaurant Row, Forest Avenue in mid to late 2019!
For more on Peter’s establishments, click here.