As a business owner, Mescolotto is “willing to pick up a shovel” or do whatever it takes to get a job done properly. “When you get down to it, I’m the chief bottle washer.” One thing he does object to, though, is being called a general contractor. “I think that’s the worst term. I explain to owners that when you get our price, we go out and get subcontractor quotes for everything, then we add our management costs, and a fee, which is our profit for doing a job—you see all the numbers. We tell people the truth: We’re the construction arm of your business and we work for you. We’ll fight with the subs, the architect, or even you if you’re making bad decisions—as an employee should.”
Knowing the intricacies of restaurant builds—and Mescolotto has some 170 to his credit—offers a distinct advantage to clients, especially when it comes to specific styles of cuisine. For example, a French format kitchen has a more formal, orchestrated flow of cooking progression. “In a tapas restaurant, things are going in every direction as they go to the pass because it’s not a coursed meal. Knowing how little things work for the chef makes a huge difference. And we also know how bartenders operate.” (A common flaw in bar design puts right-handed bartenders—who are in the majority—at a disadvantage. That gets corrected.)
The costs of building a restaurant can be formidable—Mescolotto compares it to constructing a home that contains only the most expensive components: a kitchen, baths, and a finely decorated dining room—but knowing how to tame expenses has secured his firm “a reputation of being a Class A builder.” Every design element, every piece of equipment, and all the furnishings are examined and evaluated for cost-effectiveness—as well as function and durability. Aggressive management of every step and finding creative solutions to challenges keep projects on time and under budget, all the while maintaining the client’s unique vision. In the industry, this practice is known as value engineering.
Knowing how and where to make smart choices that maintain design integrity can result in huge savings, such as the time Mescolotto found an attractive and fully acceptable alternative to heart pine, a rare old-growth wood specified by an architect, that saved the client $80,000. Appliances and other kitchen equipment represent another vital area of price scrutiny. “Anything with a French name is more expensive,” Mescolotto comments.
BIM (Building Information Modeling), a detailed digital representation of a project created by the architect, is an actionable tool for Mescolotto. “If an owner says the price is too much, say $1 million, and I can make the finished restaurant look just like the picture for $750,000, then I’ve done my job.”
As a personal favorite restaurant that he built, Mescolotto points to Chloe, which is owned and operated by his friend, Chef Haider Karoum, well known on the D.C. dining scene. The two men became acquainted when Mescolotto worked on previous successful ventures where Karoum served as executive chef. His transition from employee to restaurateur was eased by the expertise of Mescolotto, who put his “heart and soul” into the Navy Yard’s eatery that boasts a cool contemporary style while retaining a warm earthiness—and dishes up a diverse menu of globally inspired cuisine. “The restaurant opened up [in January 2018] and the food is phenomenal. He’s doing so well he’s looking to build another restaurant.”