Alex Hage, 39, came to the United States from Lebanon, moving to Boston in 2006, attracted by its Euro vibe. He spent many years working for the Columbus Hospitality Group, the team behind swanky spots such as Teatro and Ostra. Now he’s shifting gears as director of operations for meat emporium Moody’s in Waltham and the Back Bay, as well as New England Charcuterie. Soon, he’ll open Pollo Club, a fried chicken joint, next door to Moody’s Waltham flagship.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? Oleana. It was a long time ago — I know I liked their fattoush and the falafel. I think I had a lamb dish back then that I really liked. It’s been a long time.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? The consistency. You go one time, have a great time, a great visit, then you go back with friends and try to have the same experience, and it’s never there. A consistent level of food, service, the whole hospitality aspect.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? Quite a bit. It’s becoming tougher to run an establishment. I feel as if there’s no more loyalty to any restaurant. People bounce from place to place. Places open for a short period of time and can’t sustain to build followers. It’s becoming harder.
What other restaurants do you visit? I love Ostra, and recently 111 East, a new restaurant in the Seaport — a great hot-pot type of thing.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think, ‘I want to work in restaurants?’ When I was 18, living in West Africa with my uncle, he had a jazz bar. It’s how I got into the industry and fell in love with it. I was helping him manage and run the business. It was exciting.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? That’s a tough one. I don’t know. Besides the classic: You go in and nobody greets you, and you end up leaving. That just happens, I guess. I don’t have a recollection of anything that was so bad that it turned me away.
How could Boston become a better food city? Well, it’s very tough. It’s becoming more and more expensive to open places in Boston. It’s getting dominated by big guys. There’s no more authenticity with the cuisine; you don’t find passionate individuals willing to open their own place and build something amazing. It’s: How can we open a restaurant and maximize a revenue and replicate it? It’s a chain versus very unique. You go to Europe, and you find these small places no matter where you go, with pride in cuisine, space, and they go all out. It’s very systematic here — everyone doing the same thing over and over. Same menu.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Educated, more understanding of the restaurant scene, more humble.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? The fast-food dining scene — small plates, very casual dining, similar music. That type of establishment.
What are you reading? Ooh. That’s a good one. I’m really into podcasts actually, such as “Cold Call.” “Serial” is another one. And “After Hours.”
How’s your commute? It’s quite bad. I live in Charlestown, and I spend two hours working from home, or else I’d sit in traffic going into Waltham or the Back Bay. It’s an eight-minute car drive and can take up to 40 minutes at this hour. It gets harder every day!
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? I don’t know! I love all kinds.
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? A high-end Lebanese restaurant; a real true Mediterranean restaurant. True, authentic. Everyone does Greek, which is great, but it’s modernized. It’s like the sushi scene. It’s been changed to an American palate. Not quite the same.
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? I don’t have one, not really.
Who was your most memorable customer? I love this: A client of ours whom I have known for quite some time has a 9-year-old son who actually has a food blog. It was fascinating to see how young kids at that age can understand fine dining and be elaborate and have great followers. He came into Moody’s in Waltham. It was very cute. He took the time, effort, and energy to have a really great blog. He wrote about the food and his experience; it was pretty cool.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? I love Oleana in Cambridge. That place has that old-school feel, with great food.