Your first question about what dictates menu changes other than availability and seasonality of ingredients is a bit hard to answer. A lot of the time new menu items are just based on random inspiration. I also think about what the menu is missing. For example, on our current menu, we do not have a pork dish, so when I change the menu again, I'll probably put one on.
As for our selection of side dishes, the reason that they are what they are is because I like to design main dishes that do not incorporate starches. Most of my main dishes right now simply pair a protein with a vegetable. So, it makes sense to me to offer classic starches like polenta, potato puree, and gnocchi and allow customers to choose their favorites. If a customer requests a vegetable side dish, we always have something on hand--roasted winter vegetables, braised escarole, or something else--and we will do our best to accomodate that customer.
As for specials, in the beginning days of the restaurant, I have not had much extra time to plan them. As time moves on and my staff and I have more of a handle on the operations, I hope to have more freedom to be creative. My partner, Paul, however, is not a big fan of verbal specials, so whatever I do come up with usually just ends up on the regular menu. For fun every Sunday night, I do run my veal and ricotta meatballs, which people go nuts for, but the meatballs will never become a fixture on the menu because they don't exactly fit in with the rest of the dishes.
Edited by Marco Canora, 19 February 2004 - 09:54 AM.