Simplicity of Design

Simplicity of Design and Menu are Goals of Print Works Bistro

By Carl Wilson
Short Orders, News & Record
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007

The first thing you notice when entering Print Works Bistro is the natural light. Lots of it streams through 52 floor-to-ceiling windows on threes sides of the restaurant that, in good weather, can be opened to bring the outdoors in.

“We knew we wanted the restaurant to be about the gardens and nature,” says executive chef and operating partner Bart Ortiz. “So we asked ourselves, ‘How do we make this happen?'”

The result is simplicity.

This particular wing of the new Proximity Hotel is devoted entirely to the dining room, with few frills, so that diners can enjoy the view of the hotel’s courtyard and a natural setting of a stream bordered by a sloping meadow and trees. The only view of the kitchen, at the rear of the wing, is through an opaque glass wall that glows orange from heat lamps as the silhouettes of the wait staff move to and fro.

It was this same simplicity that Ortiz and hotel owner Dennis Quaintence strove for when developing the menu.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What would we like this restaurant to be? What would fill a need in this marketplace?'” says Ortiz.

Dennis Quaintence enlisted the help of longtime acquaintance and restaurant consultant Mark Furstenberg of Washington, D.C., whom Ortiz had worked with on some Lucky 32 projects.

Furstenberg, Quaintence and Ortiz began developing an approachable menu.

One of the first things they asked themselves was what restaurants they enjoy in other cities. They decided that a bistro concept was the way to go, but, as Ortiz puts it, “a bistro in the broader sense of the word.”

So Ortiz and Furstenberg boarded a plane for France and spent some time experiencing the French culture and searching for some of the best examples of bistro fare from around the country. What they found was that many of the dishes that impressed them were very elemental in their simplicity and were often served at small, family-owned eateries.

Armed with a list of common French bistro dishes, they developed a menu that includes traditional items like Mussels served in wine with fresh herbs ($19); Blette ($16), a vegetable casserole; Duck Confit ($19); Salad Frisee ($8) and even Onion Soup ($5).

“Our idea is to honor these classic dishes by keeping them, for the most part, traditional,” says Ortiz.

And as with other Quaintence restaurants (Lucky 32 and Green Valley Grill), Print Works Bistro uses local ingredients when possible.

“We’re excited about finding the best ingredients, such as trout from the North Carolina mountains, grapes from local farms and local vegetables,” says Ortiz who works closely with Eastern Carolina Organics, a company that brings ingredients from North Carolina farms to the restaurant kitchen in short order.

Ortiz even developed a fresh sausage of white wine and herbs de province with Giacomo Santomauro, of Giacomo’s Italian Market, for the Charcuterie Plate of meats ($12).

Print Works offers daily items that include Duck a l’Orange ($21) on Tuesday, Bouillabaisse ($24) on Thursday, and a special evening of Cote de Boeuf for Two ($58) on Saturday.

The menu will change seasonally and a bar menu of smaller portions will eventually be added.

Weather permitting, streamside dining and an outdoor lounge, complete with comfortable sofas, are available.

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