As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Eater checked in with Austin’s defining restaurants to see how the pandemic has affected business, service models, and more. Next up in this series: Steven Dilley, owner of Neapolitan pizza and wine restaurants Bufalina and Bufalina Due.
Eater Austin: How is the COVID-19 pandemic affecting business right now?
Steven Dilley: In every imaginable way. It’s a pretty good exercise in making clear the many connections a restaurant has to its community, even a couple of relatively small restaurants like ours. We’re constantly reevaluating the strength of the businesses and how aggressive we can be, and the decisions we make surrounding that impact an array of other local businesses, from composting folks to local farms to independent wine distributors and importers, food purveyors, and on and on.
What is the current service model?
Both locations are open for patio dining and takeout. We’re participating in the city’s Shop the Block program, which has temporarily relaxed the rules for outdoor seating, allowing us to build out small spaces with a handful of tables. It’s been great seeing some of our regulars again, but with cooler weather on the way, we’ll likely return to a takeout-only model at some point.
Are y’all planning or thinking about any future changes?
We’ve made quite a few changes as a direct result of the pandemic: retail dough, sauce, and cheese operations (through Salt & Time and Farmhouse Delivery); Bufalina wine club, our wine retail site; and a deli collaboration with Brew & Brew. Our staff really stepped it up, and I’m super proud of them. We have a Sicilian pizza launch starting soon at Bufalina Due that I’m very excited about, in addition to some still under-the-radar plans.
What measures are you currently implementing to prevent the spread of COVID?
We’re following a similar approach to many other places in town: no indoor dining, ramped-up cleaning schedules and hand washing, lots of sanitizing, distanced outdoor seating, temperature checks, contactless pickup, etc.
How has business been so far?
It’s been a rough year with overall business down significantly. I made the decision to close both restaurants in March, and we didn’t reopen until near the end of May. That’s a pretty significant hole in which to start the year. Thankfully, our focus is two items that work pretty well for takeout: pizza and wine, and we have an awesome and supportive clientele. We’ve also managed to retain our entire staff across both restaurants, so it’s hard to complain too much. Though, if you’re around me much on a daily basis, you might think otherwise.
When this thing is over, we’re going to unleash the biggest magnum party this town has ever seen.
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