Friday, September 2, 2022

A tale of a single-dish restaurant

In November last year me and Ritsuko are out on a walk in Naha on a rainy Saturday when we run across an Italian restaurant called Pastida. We're looking for a place to have lunch, so we go inside.

It's an interesting place. They serve lunch only — in fact, they're renting the space from an izakaya that opens at night. And they serve only one single dish, pasta Bolognese. No side dishes, no salads; if you don't feel like Bolognese, you need to go somewhere else.

It was very tasty; a real Bolognese with bits of meat simmered in a wine sauce, fresh pasta and topped with lots of Parmesan cheese. This was my lunch:


Spaghetti Bolognese

I've been back in Osaka for my summer holidays, and Ritsuko happened to see a magazine article about a pasta place in Kansai run by a young couple. It was a small place serving only lunch, and serving only a single dish: Spaghetti Bolognese. Not just the concept, but the picture looked very familiar. 

And when you search online there's a lot of these restaurants around. Here's a picture from Google Maps:

Spaghetti Bolognese


The pasta, the cheese, the plating, and yes, even the plate is almost exactly the same. Hmmm. 

It turns out these restaurants are way cooler than I thought. They are not chain restaurants, but they all obviously get their pasta from the same place. That place is Bigoli (also a name for the type of pasta they use). This company makes a single thing: fresh pasta and Bolognese sauce. But what they sell is a restaurant in a box.

You buy a license from them, and you get everything you need: the food, the plates and cutlery, printed menus, promotional material and so on. Yes, you still need to find a good location and come up with a name, and you still need a license to serve food and learn how to prepare this properly. 


This seems to me to be a pretty good way for somebody to dip their toes in the food service business; to figure out if they really want to do this sort of thing long term. Starting any kind of business is a big financial risk and lot of work; at least here you start out without having to figure out what to serve on top of all the rest.

If you look at the list of shops they have, there's single-dish restaurants like above. But there's also cafes and bars that add this as their one proper food dish. A low-workload way to add a proper food item to their menu.

Two reasons I don't feel cheated: First, they don't hide this. When you actually look a the menu, they clearly print that the food comes from Bigoli. In fact, they make it a point of pride. Second, the Bolognese really is quite delicious. They make this one dish and they really do make it well. You can even order online if you want to try it at home.

Chain restaurants — fast food, especially — get a bad reputation because they serve low quality or unhealthy food, not because the food has been prepared beforehand. "Ghost kitchens" (multiple online order-only "restaurants" all served from one physical kitchen) try to fool you and trick you into thinking you're getting something you really are not. 

This is doing neither. It is a healthy amount of good quality food. And they're open about it having originally been prepared elsewhere. This is fine by me.

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