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Take 5 with Mario Nocifera

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Title: General Manager, Scott Howard
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

1. How did you get started in the restaurant business?
It's all I know, what I've been doing all my life. I started washing dishes when I was 13. The beginning parts of my career were focusing on the kitchen and the back of the house in some kind of line cook capacity. I just always had a passion for food and wine. I like the instant gratification of making people happy. I have an understanding and respect for every position in a restaurant.

And yet it's different every night. There's always a new challenge. There are so many layers of complexity when you're dealing with people. This business relies on people to get things done. You have to know how to manage egos and personalities to channel their passion.

2. What's been your greatest accomplishment in the business?
All of the things at the Ritz, getting 4 stars from Michael Bauer, and being top rated for service from Zagat. I was the maitre'd at the Ritz at 29 years old. After that, this opportunity is one of my bigger accomplishments. It's a totally different gig for me.

3. What attracted you to Scott Howard, the restaurant and the chef?
Scott Howard is a very open-minded chef with an amazing palate. He allows the people around him to be creative. I took this job because he allowed me to be as creative as a I want to be versus the Ritz-Carlton where you are hired to execute standards and the Ritz-Carlton vision. I get to really impact everything from the way the stations are organized to how we get orders into the kitchen. I take the credit for everything good and bad. We're very different, Scott and I, but we complement each other well. Half of working a restaurant is chemistry. There has to be soul and dynamic. It's what makes good restaurants great.


4. How would you describe Scott Howard, the restaurant?
Scott Howard is humble and approachable and his food is too. There are only three things max on a dish but prepared meticulously. We have a raw charcuterie bar the focuses on sashimi style fish and salumi and pâté. The charcuterie/raw station is open to the dining room. Our signature dish is the carrot soup which kind of tells you who we are.

5. Where do you like to eat in the Bay Area when you're not working?
If I go into a fine dining place I want to get something out of it and it's almost like working! I like very simple places, like Emmy's Spaghetti Shack. They have good food and they change their menus every couple weeks, It can be inconsistent, but I like the spot; the people are nice. I also like the Nepalese place, Little Nepal on Cortland in Bernal Heights.

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