WGBH's Henry Santoro interviews Palm’s executive chef in Boston, Eric Tranfaglia. Below is a loosely edited version of their conversation. To listen to the entire interview, click on the audio player above.
Henry Santoro: There's an old saying that for a restaurant to be successful, it's got to stay in business for at least five years. That's around the time when many fail and it lasts longer than five years and you could very well be off to the races with success. So it goes without saying that when a restaurant is around for 90 years, you know they're doing things right. Such is the case with Boston's Palm Restaurant, which has restaurants in almost every major city, including our own Boston. It's my pleasure to welcome the Palm’s executive Boston chef, Eric Tranfaglia, to Henry and the Hub and to WGBH’s Weekend Edition.
Eric Tranfaglia: How are you doing? Nice to meet you.
HS: Very nice to meet you as well. The story of the Palm is pretty amazing. Did it start out as an Italian restaurant?
EF: It did. There was actually — the steaks were not on our menu the first round.
HS: But they were from Parma in Italy right?
HS: Which is the food capital of the world.
EF: It is very interesting how the name of the Palm came along. They actually went to go get the license and they wanted to name it after Parma, Italy and their accents were so strong that when they picked up their license, it was the Palm.
HS: That's actually pretty funny.
EF: You know, and it stuck, and now it’s just well-known all over.
HS: Contrary to what most people think when you say something is a chain restaurant, some people tend to run the other way. But that is not the case with this restaurant.
EF: No, they want us — the general manager and the chefs — to be owner-operated. It is our restaurant, we have to hold the standard and treat, you know, each guest internally and externally as they’re our family.
HS: And the original motto still holds true today: treat guests like family, serve great food and always exceed expectations. Now, that's a simple motto, but in order to have it work, you've got to have all pistons firing at all times.
EF: It goes back to internal guests and our external guests — you treat everyone with the great respect and you have the best quality you can, and it's a home run.
HS: For carnivores like myself, there's nothing like a meal of meat and potatoes and there are many to choose from in Boston. But what makes that Palm meal different from the other steak houses in town?
EF: We really take pride in our steaks. We age our steaks at least 35 days, they're hand-selected from our own butcher shop and it just melts in your mouth. It's corn fed — when you corn feed a cow, it usually adds more marbling, and the marbling will actually tenderize the meat.
HS: And marbling is flavor?
HS: We should say, as well, that the Palm isn't just a meat and potatoes restaurant. Your seafood is as mouthwatering as your meats are, with an emphasis, of course, on the big three: lobster, shrimp, and your amazing jumbo lump crab.
EF: It doesn't matter if we talk about our meat — but our quality. Everything that we bring is outstanding.
HS: So what's your idea of the perfect Palm meal?
EF: I definitely enjoy our wagyu rib eye. It melts in your mouth. It's one of the best cuts of meat you can [have]. Our creamed spinach is an absolute amazing side dish.
HS: It's a badge of honor at the Palm to have your caricature hanging on the wall. Do you know how that tradition started?
EF: There was an artist that used to come into the Palm, and he couldn't pay for his bill one day, so they said, ‘can you draw us a picture?’ And ever since, it went from there.
HS: Well, Eric great to meet you. Happy 90th anniversary to the Palm. Eric Tranfaglia — he's the executive chef at the Palm Boston located at One International Place. Thank you so much for coming in.
EF: Thank you for having me.
HS: I'm Henry in the Hub. This is Weekend Edition on WGBH.