Parkersburg’s downtown restaurant scene is experiencing a facelift as a staple rebrands itself inside The Blennerhassett Hotel. Brunello, named after the affluent wine-making region in Italy, graces its diners with fresh takes on familiar food and some new dishes as well.
Patrons can find wood-fired pizzas and signature dishes like the Brunello Burger to pair with new appetizers – all of which feature an Italy meets France fusion of flavor. However, the menu isn’t the only part of the restaurant to see change. The atmosphere has developed into a more modern design while still paying homage to the traditional feel of the hotel featuring the loved mahogany wainscoting and rich colors. Now, booths with private TVs, white quartz tabletops, artistic sound-proofing panels, murals encompassing whole walls and an eclectic gallery wall featuring local artists help to bring the décor into a modern state.
Having multiple dining options downtown is just another favorable amenity to offer people who either live, work or stay in the downtown area.
“We feel Brunello will be another vibrant addition to the downtown area. We are fortunate to be surrounded by other great restaurateurs and hope that this brings additional business to everyone. Having multiple dining options downtown is just another favorable amenity to offer people who either live, work or stay in the downtown area,” Marketing Director Nicole Slattery said.
One of the hallmarks of the new restaurant is the open kitchen where guests can watch the process of preparing an exceptional dining experience. Executive Chef Lutz and his team are at the center of creating an experience that continues to uphold the hotel’s name in fine dining.
I was hooked. I loved the fast pace, the chaos, the comradery, all of it.
A Parkersburg native, Chef Lutz started his culinary journey while still in high school. “My path into culinary was certainly not linear, nor was it the initial plan,” he said. “While still in high school, I was presented with the opportunity to help the then Sous Chef of the restaurant, Dan Coss, on a random one-off catering event. Fast forward to the following spring, Dan reached out to me saying the hotel was looking for a part-time dishwasher and I figured why not.”
“My first night came as a bit of a surprise as rather than being presented a typical dishwasher uniform,” Lutz continued. “I was given a (comically) oversized chef uniform. Dan explained that he was going to train me on pantry (salads, cold apps, desserts) in order for me to cover other staff members’ days off. Some months later, I was hooked. I loved the fast pace, the chaos, the comradery, all of it. After being promoted to the grill station, I decided I wanted to attend culinary school,” Chef Lutz said.
After graduation from Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Pittsburgh, Chef Lutz returned to the Mid-Ohio Valley with the intention of “calling it home for as long as possible.” Chef Lutz returned to The Blennerhasett Hotel where he trained under the past two Executive Chefs and learned from their skill sets as he hones his own.
In order for a kitchen to function well, there needs to be a sense of belonging and community amongst the staff.
“I was fortunate enough to find mentorship in both of my predecessors as they both, essentially, took me under their wing(s). My time leading up to taking the helm, above all else, taught me the importance of teamwork within the kitchen hierarchy. In order for a kitchen to function well, there needs to be a sense of belonging and community amongst the staff,” Chef Lutz said.
Chef Lutz witnessed many changes during his time at the hotel, but he’s eager to meet the challenges of opening a new restaurant. To him, the most difficult aspect is learning patience as Brunello opened. Where he often would have liked to pursue the process at “full steam ahead,” he’s learned to manage his excitement for the establishment and present the absolute best to the community.
“We really wanted to make a statement with Brunello. For starters, we have had to let go of everything about our previous menus. This is both exciting and daunting, as change so often is. We have completely changed our mentality in how we approach service. The goal is to offer our community fresh takes on some classic dishes. We have also added pizzas to our menu and will be expanding on this station in the new future,” Chef Lutz said.
Chef Lutz’s menu offers a lot of shareable options ranging from pizzas to an expanded appetizer section, which he hopes to continue expanding. Additionally, he is focusing on the growing trend of providing fresh and locally sourced ingredients to diners in a shared plate option. His focus on the shared plate stems from his love of downtown and encouraging others to see it as a viable place to value and spend time in Parkersburg.
As Brunello grows, diners can capitalize on the newly expanded bar area and the outdoor patio dining area. The hotel will offer handhelds and drinks on the patio around the fire pit area as well. Additionally, not all that was well-known is gone. The crowd-pleasing Sunday Brunch is still on the horizon as decisions about the menu and logistics are finalized.