Take a load off

Innovative Midtown restaurant refreshes with new chef and new look

Innovative Midtown restaurant refreshes with new chef and new look

Weights + Measures rack of lamb
Grilled rack of lamb with ricotta polenta. Courtesy of Weights + Measures
Weights + Measures Fernando Rios
Executive chef Fernando Rios. Courtesy of Weights + Measures
Weights + Measures chicken crostini
Chicken crostini with tarragon yogurt and beets. Courtesy of Weights + Measures
Weights + Measures rack of lamb
Weights + Measures Fernando Rios
Weights + Measures chicken crostini

Both significant and subtle changes have quietly taken place at Weights + Measures. The popular Midtown restaurant has a new executive chef, a refreshed interior, and a renovated kitchen — all courtesy of a new owner.

Formerly silent partners, Gene Frazier and Katherine McNeal purchased the restaurant from founders/partners Jon Deal, Ian Rosenberg, Mike Sammons, and executive chef Richard Kaplan in late February. Selling his stake in the restaurant allowed Kaplan to retire, paving the way for the promotion of Fernando Rios to be Weights' new executive chef.

Rios has been working alongside Kaplan since before Weights + Measures opened. Kaplan had planned to elevate him into the top role eventually, with the sale providing the right opportunity to put the Da Marco veteran in the top role.

Rios tells CultureMap that the primary difference between his cooking and Kaplan’s is that he’s a fan of bigger, bolder flavors. Whereas Kaplan kept Weights pretty focused on an Italian-inspired mix of shareable plates, pizzas, and pastas, Rios is more open to a broader range of international ingredients.

“My approach, if I see soy sauce or fish sauce, I’m more inclined to bring them in,” Rios says. “I’m not afraid to combine flavors. It all comes down to taste.”

Of course, some staples will remain — regulars might riot if the signature roasted carrot pizza was suddenly unavailable — but the chef has recently rolled out new lunch and dinner menus that reflect his culinary perspective.

The chef has an unusual technique for pasta — “just good flour and a good egg” without any water — that he says results in a more flexible dough that can be used in a wider variety of fresh or dried applications. It’s a method he developed during his time at fine dining institution Da Marco; while owner Marco Wiles expressed skepticism at the time, Rios recalls earning the approval of a visiting Italian for the finished product’s flavor.

The chef has also overseen the addition of weekday breakfast service. While the restaurant has always had its bake shop open for coffee and pastries, the new menu — served Monday - Friday from 8 to 11 am — takes some of the favorite dishes from the brunch menu and makes the available during the week. 

Like Rios, general manager Angela Moore has been working at the restaurant for some time and remains in her role to provide a smooth transition from one ownership group to the next. Seeing an opportunity with the closure of Ibiza to transform Weights into Midtown’s new preferred dining destination for wine lovers, the former Pass & Provisions manager has created a new wine list with a budget-friendly two-times markup.

“All the distributors are offering incredible deals, so why aren’t we passing it on to the public,” Moore says. “They’re sitting on wine that needs to move . . . it’s only right we pass those deals on.”

Moore will also oversee the restaurant’s new, 50-seat private dining room. Formed by combining the restaurant’s former patio and part of its lounge, the private room is most obvious part of renovations conducted while the restaurant shut down for dine-in service. Other changes include the removal of the ‘70s-style shag carpeting on one wall, new paint throughout the dining room, and a slightly expanded kitchen.

Whether diners notice how sparkling the refreshed interior is may be difficult to measure, but they’ll certainly notice the lower prices. Nothing on Rios’ new dinner menu costs more than $24, and that’s for grilled rack of lamb.

“We’ve always wanted to be that neighborhood restaurant,” Moore says. “Now, the prices are down, much more affordable so you want to come two or three times a week.”