You are here

Member on the Menu: Rose Previte

March 24, 2017

What is the hardest part about owning and opening a restaurant?
Well, just about everything is hard! Being your own boss and owning your own place is great but with it comes the realization that absolutely no one can do most things for you. Things just won’t get done if you don’t do them and it doesn’t matter if you’re sick or tired, the show goes on and it’s all your show. Opening has a million challenges but things that stick out in my mind are most permitting and government related processes and money. It’s so scary and hard to see money go out the door for a long period of time when you’re not seeing any of it come back in. Having investors and people who believe in you makes you want to succeed even more than you would otherwise and you constantly have to assure yourself that you can do this!

…and the most rewarding part?
Every time someone says they love the vibe at Compass Rose. Knowing they felt something during their visit and that it was an experience. I love knowing that someone connected to what we’re doing. I never get tired of hearing it.

Explain how your travels influence your menu and restaurant?
My travels influence everything at Compass Rose, from the decor to the food. Ironically, when we first opened I didn’t leave the restaurant for a year which meant no travel. So word to the wise, open a restaurant about your travels, and you won’t get to travel for awhile. But now I have great management staff who runs the show while I’m gone. We often use my travels or the chef’s travels to change menu items. While I’m out in the world I always try to find a weird wine or spirit I didn’t know before and bring it back in the hopes we can find it for the bar. Everything about the layout and decor of Compass was meant to invoke the feeling of being in a bustling marketplace somewhere in the world. Now when I go away, I always bring back souvenirs and trinkets from where I’ve been that add layers to the decor that’s already in place.

How are you influenced by the neighborhood you are located in?
I’ve loved the U street neighborhood ever since moving to DC in 2003 when there wasn’t quite so much here. In my opinion it’s one of the most colorful, vibrant parts of the city. Compass Rose is very much inspired by street food and wanderings that I did in far flung parts of the world. The streets of 14th and U streets hold lots of street art and unexpected nooks that remind me of some of the most interesting places I traveled. One of our bartenders, Janelle Whisenant is an artist and has created a whole series of street art pieces for the restaurant. She lives right down the street and used the neighborhood as her inspiration for many of those pieces. On any given night the majority of the crowd at Compass are our neighbors. They infuse the space with their energy and help create the vibe that people love so much. We created it to be a neighborhood restaurant that people came to in order to gather and meet multiple times a week and that’s exactly what’s happened. Being in a row house makes us feel even more a part of the actual neighborhood.

How did you get started in the business? What was your first job in the industry and what did you learn from it?
My first job in the food and beverage industry came when I was old enough to reach the countertop in my mother’s kitchen. She ran a small catering business out of our house and I helped her cook Middle Eastern food en mass for as long as I can remember. She taught me the basics of hospitality and serving people. She made sure I knew how to make people feel at home and how to express love through food. My first job for someone I wasn’t related to was waiting tables at an Olive Garden off an interstate in rural Ohio. That job will teach you a lot of things. But most of all it taught me that service and hospitality are important wherever you are. And regardless of what kind of food you’re serving, people have different tastes and love to come together over a dinner table and share stories and be together. As the server, you can create a memorable experience for someone where they can learn from you and feel special and catered to for a brief time. Before they have to go face the world again.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to have expanded the Compass Rose brand. I love the idea of having a Compass Rose in every point of the compass, north, south, east and west. I don’t know what that means yet but excited to see how we can accomplish that in the next few years. \

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
There are two big ones.

  1. Back at the Olive Garden in Ohio, the woman who trained me said something I’ve carried with me every since, “leave your problems at the door and don’t show them to people at your tables or you ain’t gonna make no money”.
  2. My mother is a very religious person and she constantly reminds me of a quote from the bible that regardless of your religious persuasion, I think all of us in the service industry should remember. “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I would love to write a book and be called a writer. And/or I have always dreamt of being a raspy voiced jazz singer in a smoky, dark jazz club.

What song always makes you happy?
This is super cheesy but the version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow that uses a ukulele. 

What is your favorite ingredient?
Salt. It shouldn’t be but it is the true. Past that I love adding cinnamon to dishes you would not expect it to be in.

You’re hosting a dream dinner party.  What three people would be at your table?
Mother Theresa. Beyonce. Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

It’s the last meal of your life  - what’s on your plate?
Fresh beautiful summer tomatoes and Persian cucumbers, cheese of almost any sort, crusty beautiful bread with Spanish olive oil.

What are your pet peeves?
There really isn’t room here for all of them but top on my list are people sniffing really hard, whistling (I know, I have no soul), tasteless, mediocre food and people who want to lecture me about why we should take reservations.

What is your favorite way to give back to the community?
I love working in kitchens at soup kitchens and serving the homeless community. Lately, we’ve been able to do a lot of amazing fundraisers at Compass Rose through dinners, happy hours and special events like War of the Roses. I feel so lucky to have a space that can be used to raise awareness of DC specific issues and raise money for organizations like N Street Village. And we can also host lots of events to raise money for international issues like the famine in Yemen, flood victims in Tbilisi and a local artisan in Bolivia. So even when I don’t have time to get on the ground and give back in person, we can raise money for awesome and amazing organizations.

What’s your favorite go-to junk food?
McDonald’s cheeseburgers.