One of Scottsdale’s most influential restaurateurs is bringing his talents to Roosevelt Row.
Peter Kasperski, the man behind some of the best-loved Valley restaurants of the past decade, is opening an ambitious new food and beverage project in downtown Phoenix on Nov. 20. He’s also tapped former employee and one of metro Phoenix’s top mixologists Richie Moe to help.
Though both Kasperski and Moe bring decades of industry experience to the endeavor, Kasperski says they’ll take some time to get settled into the new neighborhood.
“We’re gonna take the first six weeks and call it spring training and work out all the kinks,” Kasperski says. “Richie and I have worked a little bit in Phoenix but we’re Scottsdale boys, so it’ll be nice for us to get a little feel for the neighborhood.”
What to know about Peter Kasperski and Richie Moe
Since the mid-to-late-2000s Kasperski has opened and closed a slew of restaurants, mostly in downtown Scottsdale, many of which have been helmed by chefs who’ve gone on to achieve local and even national acclaim.
The list of Kasperski restaurant alumni includes James Beard award winner Nobuo Fukuda, Bernie Kantak of Citizen Public House and The Gladly, and pastry chefs Tracy Dempsey and Country Velador, who also earned a James Beard nod this year. On the beverage side, Kasperski has partnered with top local talent including Jason Asher and Rich Furnari, the duo behind award-winning tiki bar Undertow and Century Grand.
Since the sudden closure of Kasperski’s 21-year-old restaurant Cowboy Ciao and wine bar Kazimierz in 2018, however, the prolific restaurateur has been largely off the radar.
Now he’s back and partnering with a familiar face from the beverage scene.
Moe, who previously worked with Kasperski at Cowboy Ciao, has a robust reputation of his own.
Formerly found behind the stick at Binkley’s in Phoenix, Moe also headed up the short-lived Citizen R+D, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar once located above the Citizen Public House dining room. Fans of Moe’s dramatic drinks — think tableside gin and flaming cocktails mixed mid-air — will be glad to hear he has some of the same in store for the new cocktail concept.
What to expect at the new restaurant, Character
Kasperski’s new restaurant will be called Character Distinctive Dining and will open on Nov. 20. The restaurant, which Kasperski describes as “a modern interpretation of an American dinner house,” takes over the bungalow that previously housed Josephine restaurant.
Chef Justin “Red” Huska, another ex-Binkley’s employee who also worked at Kai at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass, will lead the kitchen.
Kasperski says Character will offer a not-quite fine dining experience and guests can expect “inventive” cuisine. For example, Huska has been experimenting with sous vide cooking techniques that have allowed him to isolate different textures of potatoes.
The restaurant will serve dinner seven days a week and Kasperki says the menu will change anywhere from three to six times a year. Whenever the food menu gets an update, he’ll also do a complete overhaul of the wine list. Perhaps he’ll update the decor to reflect the new theme, too, he says.
Considering Kasperski’s extensive background in wine, it’s no surprise he has grand plans for Character’s list. Kasperski says he’ll be limited to stocking about 70-75 selections, which he’ll purchase in small quantities. Expect older vintages, “rarer stuff” and Grower’s Champagne.
“I don’t have all the toys that I used to with all that room,” he says, referring to the ample storage space he once had at Kazimierz. “So I gotta make it work a little bit more efficiently.”
Mindful of the pandemic, Kasperski says the Character space offers ample patio seating and that the team is following all COVID-19 safety regulations.
Alias: Edible cocktails, multi-course dining
Behind Character, in the former Coup de Grace space, Moe will debut a new experience for local cocktail enthusiasts.
Called Alias, the bar is expected to open by Jan. 1, when it will begin offering cocktail-paired dinners three nights a week.
Together, Moe and Huska plan to serve multi-course cocktail-paired dinners for no more than six guests per night. There will be one seating per night at 6 p.m., after which the bar will flip into a normal cocktail bar. Kasperski says they’ll open with service Thursday-Saturday and explore adding nights as they go.
The cocktail-paired dinner menus could range anywhere from 5 to 17 courses and will cost between $100 and $300 depending on the number of courses and ingredients used.
Moe says the menus will feature “a lot more science than people are doing downtown.” His plans incorporate things like centrifuges, magnets and even soundwaves. One menu called “Vodkas Not That Bad” will highlight vodka being transformed into different spirits including gin (through infusion) and whiskey (through aging).
He’ll also offer “edible cocktails,” one of which he calls “a way more elevated version of a Jell-O shot.”
Does Kasperski have more plans for Phoenix?
Kasperski is working with True North Studio, the development company behind a number of projects in downtown Phoenix and Roosevelt Row, to turn these two new projects into reality.
Kasperski says he met True North founder Jonathan Vento when he was a regular at Cowboy Ciao.
“I’m hoping that we get the chance to do more things with them and it looks like in the very near future we will,” Kasperski says. “I’m really happy we’re here.”
Reservations for Character will be available via OpenTable at characterphx.com. Those with questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reservations for Alias will be available by phone at a later date.