Making veggies sexy

A search for better vegetarian fare and more fulfilling careers led these friends to create a fine-dining restaurant despite no experience in the notoriously difficult field. Already a destination, Comune opened last fall in the East Public development on Parsons Avenue.

It Takes a Commune: Reaching out to professionals led to a community of talented locals happy to advise the two on their evolving plans. That long list of mentors includes Kate Djupe of Service Bar and (formerly) The Commissary, Sang Lakhani and Jen Marlatt from The Table, Jonathan Olson of The Keep Liquor Bar, Greg Lehman of Watershed Distillery and Travis Owens of Behind the Glass beverage consulting (and bygone Curio). When the guys eventually met Ben Kanavel—whose fine-dining resume is impeccable—they knew they’d found their future chef. “That meeting was a lovefest,” Galati says. “He’s into most everything we are—like gardening and ethical, local sourcing—and he’s not even a vegetarian,” Maikut adds.

Seasons of Change: Upon first encountering the dilapidated edifice now housing Comune, Maikut remarked, “I have seen the future!” The interior, though, appeared to be stuck in a time warp. “You’d never design a restaurant like this in a million years—the quirky building dictates everything,” Galati says about Comune’s upstairs kitchen and downstairs cooler. Contours aside, the chic rehabbed space, playful yet sophisticated globetrotting food and creative “root-to-stem” cocktails have led to a routinely packed restaurant, proving Maikut correct. That same forward-looking vision will be on display come May, when Comune’s menu is entirely replaced. Fans needn’t agonize about losing go-to dishes and sought-after libations, though. As Galati says, “Wait till people see how good we can be when so much more stuff is in season.”