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Beer aficionado Sam Fitz is leaving his position as bar manager of Pizzeria Paradiso over the next month to open his own place with his sister Rachel Fitz. He’s not revealing a lot of the details at this time, but the business will be in D.C. and take inspiration from a cider-focused trip he took to the French and Spanish Basque country last February. He’s registered an LLC for “Basque Bar.”
Sam Fitz came to Pizzeria Paradiso over the summer after overseeing the beer programs at Meridian Pint and Smoke and Barrel. Rachel Fitz worked with her brother as assistant general manager at Meridian Pint at the time. According to Pizzeria Paradiso owner Ruth Gresser, Fitz’s role at her restaurants was always seen as a transitional one, following the departure of longtime bar manager Greg Jasgur.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity afforded me by Pizzeria Paradiso,” Fitz tells Y&H via email. “I arrived with a limited amount of time to give, yet Ruth and the Paradiso family took me in and provided a forum to practice my trade as I pursued a long-standing dream of opening a restaurant with my sister, Rachel. That pursuit is becoming increasingly intensive, and the time has come for my role at Pizzeria Paradiso to transition to one befitting the amount of time I still have to give.”
Longtime assistant bar manager Josh Fernands will replace Fitz. Fernands, who previously worked at Brasserie Beck under Thor Cheston (now co-owner of Right Proper Brewing Company), plans to continue bringing in unique beers and pursuing more Pizzeria Paradiso brewing collaborations. Fitz will consult with Fernands during the transition and says he’ll still be a regular at the Georgetown location’s beer club in the downstairs birreria on the first Monday of every month.
Read a full statement from Gresser below:
Pizzeria Paradiso is happy to announce the second step in our leadership change for the beer program at Pizzeria Paradiso. Sam Fitz, who took over the beer program upon Greg Jasgur’s departure over the summer, has begun working in earnest on his dream of opening his own place. Over the next month or so, as his focus moves to his new venture Sam will move into a supportive role at Pizzeria Paradiso.
Sam’s tenure at Pizzeria Paradiso was always seen as a transitional one, both for him and for Pizzeria Paradiso. Sam’s strength with developing organizational systems was in stark contrast to Greg’s personality driven beer program. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity afforded me by Pizzeria Paradiso as I pursued a long-standing dream of opening a restaurant with my sister, Rachel. Without discussing my plans in depth, I can say that my cider-focused trip to Basque Country last February deeply inspired me. What I can also say is that you can still find me drinking the best beers the world has to offer at Paradiso’s three bars, particularly at Monday Night Beer Club in the lower level of the Georgetown location on the first Monday of every month!” – Sam Fitz
Now that Sam has organized our systems, Josh Fernands, Pizzeria Paradiso’s long time assistant bar manager will now move to the helm of the beer program. Josh assisted in the development and growth of the Paradiso beer program as well as working under Thor Cheston at Brasserie Beck. He has a vast beer knowledge, a refined palate and a passion for the unique and extraordinary brew. He also brews at home, both beer and kombucha and is looking forward to pursuing more Pizzeria Paradiso brewing collaborations. Josh is excited to add his personal stamp to the Pizzeria Paradiso beer program while maintaining it’s prominence and position as the broadest selection of interesting, intriguing beer in the Washington DC area.
We wish Sam great success and look forward to Josh’s ascendancy.
Photo courtesy Sam Fitz