The origins of Oficina Latina

In the first of our new series, Behind the Kitchen, I recently sat down with Paolo Votano, one of the owners of Oficina Latina, to discuss the restaurant industry, Italy, and of course all things food. Though raised in Italy, Paolo has found an appreciation for America and, with another restaurant on the way, it’s safe to say he’s not heading back anytime soon.

About five years ago Paolo moved to America with the dream of opening “something”. Having been in the restaurant industry, as well as bartending, back in Italy, he was already quite familiar with the business process. When an old friend, Max Busato, suggested combining forces and opening a restaurant, things got serious. They threw around ideas and came up with the Pan-American Highway–themed Oficina Latina, turning his dream into a reality. With the help of odds and ends from the Brimfield Antique Show, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of the 1950s motorcycle race, Carrera Panamericana, while dining and drinking Latin-American themed cuisine and cocktails.

Oficina Latina

To what does Paolo owe his success?

Of course he can’t pin point his success to one specific thing, but instead he discusses several. He believes what has been very important in business is to remain open to learning something new every single day, and adapting when need be. For example, what worked one day, may not work the next, so you have to constantly be on your toes, ready for something new. And specifically, what worked in Italy, may not work in America. For instance, the fresh flavors in Italy are delicate, but here in America they must be stronger to satisfy our different palates. Another big change has been Social Media’s effect on the restaurant business. Paolo could not have predicted these changes, but as the industry continues to evolve to modern times, as will we, says Paolo.

Though not the chef behind the scenes, Paolo certainly is a foodie, and I certainly didn’t hesitate pursuing this topic.

When asked about his first memory of food, without hesitation, Paolo quickly remarks on the memory of barbeque short ribs, as well as potato croquettes. He also describes his Italian diet growing up, which consisted of simply pasta and meat, and more pasta and meat.

Nowadays though, he barely ever touches pasta. His diet includes lots of vegetables, meats, and very few grains. Here in America, with everything being so overly processed, I try to eat as pure as I can, or else all that processed junk can really mess up your body, says Paolo.

I definitely can’t argue with that mentality!

So what’s next for Paolo?

Well speaking of eating real, pure food, Paolo is opening a new Italian-Tapas style restaurant, which will be largely farm-to-table and will highlight many local foods. You can guarantee I’ll be one of the first to check it out…

But in the meantime, be sure to head over to Oficina Latina for some wonderful drinks and food, and a fun environment! Be sure to say hi to Paolo, and definitely ask about the Passion and Love shot…you can thank me later.

Oficina Latina

Oficina Latina
24 Prince st
New York 10012


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About The Author

Healthy Eater

Southern girl at heart, minus the fried food. Fresh on the NY food scene, hungry for a healthy way to live in this food capital.