Scott Pisani, owner and chef of Creswell restaurant Pazzo, is familiar with kitchens. And he should be. He’s been in one since he was around 7 years old, he says. “My family was very Italian,” he says. “We didn’t have a living room. We had a kitchen.”
After years of working in kitchens, he now has his own in Creswell. In 2019, Pisani opened Pazzo, Italian for “crazy,” which is also tattooed on the knuckles of his right hand. And it’s been a crazy few years — from working in a cramped kitchen space to surviving the darkest moments of the pandemic.
Now that Pazzo has survived the worst of COVID-19, the restaurant is expanding and has cemented itself as a part of Creswell’s burgeoning food scene, which Pisani says is growing along with the area’s population, offering customers high-quality farm-to-table food — without an ostentatious menu.
“I don’t want to be a destination restaurant. I don’t want to be a special event restaurant. I want you to come in every Tuesday, every Friday. I want you to come in with your girlfriends and enjoy a bottle of wine and appetizers and not feel like you have to leave in 10 minutes,” Pisani says. “I don’t want the pretension. That’s what sets me apart.”
Despite the fact that Pisani grew up in a kitchen, he worked in the local auto industry until the Great Recession led to him losing his job. In 2011, he enrolled in Lane Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program. After graduation, he worked briefly at the Marlboro’s Crazy Mountain Guest Ranch in Montana and moved back to Oregon, working at several local restaurants — from a sous chef at the former Koho Bistro to executive chef at the former Rain Northwest — until he decided to finally open his own restaurant.
In 2019, he opened Pazzo. He says he took over the lease from the hair salon NuVo on Oregon Avenue, Creswell’s main drag. “It was an opportunity, and we jumped on it, and then three months later, COVID hit,” he laughs. Like most businesses that were surviving during that time, Pisani relied on takeout (and his teenaged sons’ labor), and he says that Creswell’s residents supported him throughout the darkest moments of the pandemic.
The building didn’t have a kitchen when he moved in, he says, and what he built when Pazzo opened was about the size of a food cart. There wasn’t room for storage or an office. So he says during dinner service he would have to play Frogger and run across Oregon Avenue, where he then had an office, just to grab a bottle of wine for a customer or ingredients for a menu item.
When the COVID recession led Pazzo’s neighbor, The Chronicle newspaper, to move its office to Springfield, Pisani and his wife, Chelsea Pisani — who was running Creswell Wellness Center on the other side of The Chronicle — took the space over. The two split the office to expand each other’s businesses, and now the Pazzo has an office and a storage space in the same building. He says after the restaurant is done with its kitchen remodel he will open for lunch and possibly brunch.
Scott Pisani designs the menu with the vision of a farm-to-table restaurant. He sources all of his ingredients within a 100-mile radius and buys meat from Long’s Meat Market and fish from Newman’s Fish Company. The menu has seasonal changes, but there are mainstay items.
He keeps the menu to one page because he says he wants to show off the seven entrees he can execute well, which includes dishes that people don’t see every day. “People see rarebit and say, ‘I haven’t had rarebit in 40 years,’ and that’s the point,” Pisani says. Welsh rarebit — no, not a rabbit — is basically cheesy bread with Worcestershire sauce on it, he says. “It’s very uncommon because it’s been lost in translation for so many years.”
Pisani doesn’t go too crazy with menu items, like his burgers. “A burger is a burger. It’s what it is and what it should be — stop molesting it,” he says. Pisani stays away from adding bacon, magic spice blend or a fancy cheese. He says every morning he makes the burger patties and the pickles and keeps the rest simple. “It’s salt and pepper. It’s grilled. The way you want it. If you want it medium, I’ll cook it medium. If you want it well done, I’ll begrudgingly cook it well done.”
Despite a menu that includes pork chops, fish and salads, Creswell is still a meat and potatoes town, he says, so the menu has to have some sort of steak. At $34, he offers a ribeye steak sourced from Knee Deep Ranch on Lorane Highway. Customers may balk at the price, he says, but then they see what they get for it: a one-pound slab of steak. “It’s a full ribeye. I don’t believe in cutting portions,” he says.
While the restaurant is home for many locals, Pazzo and other local eateries are also bringing people to town; it’s a cluster of restaurants — from Creswell Bakery to Bahn Mi and Brews — that each have something unique.
“It’s really starting to grow.” Pisani says of Creswell, “and what you’re seeing is younger families, younger professionals, people who don’t want to drive to Eugene. It’s all here, and everybody has their niche thing that they’re doing. And it works. Everybody is getting a piece of the pie. It’s happening at a decent pace.”
Pazzo is at 44 W. Oregon Avenue in Creswell. For reservations or to order takeout, call 541-658-5544. Hours are 4 to 8 pm Wednesday through Saturday. For more information, visit PazzoEats.com.