The sound of violins whisper from historic Main Street (Highway 51) in Pineville, North Carolina. Following the soft sound of the strings down Johnston Street, you are consumed by the two-story white house with rose shutters. This historic home built in the late-19th century has been repurposed into a restaurant created out of love.
Welcome to the home of Maestro’s Bistro. Co-owners Pam Menzel and Chef Kyle Burke have been together over 20 years. Both from New Jersey they met, “as unromantic as it is… we met at a ‘Friday’s’ on a Friday,” says Pam, “our paths crossed and we talked until the wee hours of the morning about our mutual love of food and our mutual aspirations of one day owning our own restaurant. The rest is history.”
Pam grew up in a house filled with love for violins and food. Her father, Richard, was an accomplished violinist who was also a wanna-be food critic. He maintained a database of his experiences and rated everything, “from the shape of the salt and pepper shakers, the state of the restrooms, if there were fresh flowers on the table, and the taste and presentation of the food,” Pam continued, “It was often embarrassing, but entertaining to dine in new restaurants with my dad on his quest to find the perfect restaurant.”
Chef Kyle’s journey to the prestigious Culinary Institute of America began during the crabbing expeditions with his dad and grandfather. They would bring the catch home where his mom and grandma would turn them into, “the most delicious crab in marinara sauce with fresh linguine in the world.”
The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York opened in 1946. Famous chef alumni include Anthony Bourdain, Cat Cora, Rocco DiSpirito, Duff Goldman, and Andrew Zimmern. When Chef Kyle applied, the applicant was required to have at least 2 years of hands on experience in a professional kitchen, “Fortunately since the age of 14, prior to attending the CIA, I worked under some very accomplished French Chefs in fine dining establishments throughout New Jersey and learned a lot of my pastry skills through them.”
When Chef Kyle and Pam began looking at locations to open a restaurant, they packed their bags and moved south. They dedicated the restaurant to Pam’s parents, Richard, the violinist and Rose. Maestro’s Bistro is filled with touches that remind the diner that you’re a guest in a restaurant that love built. Rosemarie’s portrait dazzles over the fireplace, just to the right of the entry, and fresh roses grace every table. The sheet music wallpaper in the restroom and violin curtain tie backs are a nod to Richard.
As Fort Mill grows, it’s important that we seek out the locally owned restaurants. It’s important that we show with our dollars that we care about our neighbors. The more we frequent these types of businesses, especially those that repurpose buildings, the more help we give in preserving elements of the home that we know and love.
Q&A WITH MAESTRO'S OWNERS, CHEF KYLE AND PAM
Where did you grow up?
Pam: Livingston, New Jersey
Chef Kyle: Medford Lakes, New Jersey
What brought you here?
Pam: The ability to open our own restaurant, the climate, and cost of living.
Chef Kyle: My wife.
What is your favorite food memory?
Pam: Watching my mom making homemade Spaetzle (German egg noodle dumplings).
Chef Kyle: Going crabbing with my dad and grandfather.
Did You foresee owning a restaurant growing up?
Pam: I always wanted to own a restaurant. By the age of four, I was the official grilled cheese maker.
When did you know you wanted to be a chef?
Chef Kyle: As far back as I can remember.
What is your favorite dish by your husband?
Pam: Beef Wellington.
What is your favorite dessert by your husband?
Pam: All of them are wonderful, but I especially love his cheesecakes because we often collaborate about different flavors he can introduce (german chocolate, candy cane, pina colada, orange creamsicle…the list goes on). It’s always fun for me to try out what we imagined and he then executes. His mint chocolate chip cheesecake is one of my personal favorites.
Who cooks at home?
Pam: Ha-ha… funny question…. owning a restaurant, we’re rarely cooking at home.
Chef Kyle: Staples in our fridge are some nice cheeses, water crackers, olives, tapenade, pesto, hummus and pita.
Where is your favorite foodie place in the world?
Pam: New York City…so many different ethnic food venues.
Chef Kyle: Las Vegas
Who in the food world do you most admire?
Chef Kyle: I loved Julia Child. I had the honor of meeting her while I attended the Culinary Institute of America. She was a true ground breaker in the culinary world.
Favorite foods to cook with?
Chef Kyle: Wine, fresh herbs, fresh ingredients.
Do you have a favorite wine?
Chef Kyle: I love to try different wines. I tend to lean towards big bold cabernet sauvignons.
Chef Kyle: Larousse Gastronomique – the encyclopedia of gastronomy.
Favorite kitchen equipment or gadget?
Chef Kyle: mandoline slicer
As Anthony Bourdain puts it, what’s your ‘Last Supper’ meal?
Pam: Kyle’s wild mushrooms soup, black forest salad, chicken cordon bleu with a marsala wine sauce, my mom’s homemade spaetzle and grilled asparagus…for dessert, Kyle’s crème brulee.
Chef Kyle: Artisan cheeses, great olive oil, crusty bread, Mama’s homemade marinara sautéed with fresh caught crab over homemade linguini, caesar salad, and for dessert…tiramisu.
Writer’s Note: A few weeks ago, Maestro Bistro’s 12 foot by 4 foot mature herb garden was dug up and stolen. Hurting locally owned small business hurts us all.
207 Johnston Drive
Pineville, North Carolina
About Lisa McTigue
Homelessly Home: Wandering. I take my coffee with a side of sunglasses. Prefer short conversations and verbose thoughts. Co-founded MINIvivo.com, recommended by travelers. As a freelance writer, I cover travel, small business, and buying local. For over ten years, I developed film, television, and new media content in Hollywood. Featured in The New York Times, AmericanExpress OpenForum, Intuit Small Business Blog, and The Washington Post.