Restaurateur Michael Krupp kept the secret for a week and a half. He told few others: The President of the United States was coming to his Kendall Square restaurant for lunch.
And therein unfolded a course of events that involved the Secret Service, local police, street barricades, restaurant windows tinted so dark you could see only shadows inside, communications and security technology, an elaborate tented area at the restaurant entrance, a security sweep an hour before guests arrived. And, of course, a menu to plan, wines to consider, all consumed in 50 minutes. Timing was crucial. The president can’t hang around like a regular customer.
Barack Obama came to Boston on March 30 to speak at the dedication ceremony at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, with his wife, Michelle, along with Vice President Joe Biden. But only the president was going to Area Four.
“This was no casual stop-by,” says Krupp. “This was a fund-raising event for the Democratic National Committee.” Krupp says, “The people in attendance . . . are friends of ours,” and he is unwilling to name them. It was only after arrangements for the event were underway that “someone called and said, “ ‘The president is coming to the event. How would you feel about hosting?’ And I said, ‘You’re joking.’ ”
Krupp will not say who at the DNC is his insider, but ACCORDING TO SOMEONE WHO RECEIVED ONE, the names on the lunch invitation were Lizbeth and George Krupp (Michael’s parents) and Douglas (George’s brother) and Judi Krupp (the two couples hosted a fund-raiser for the president in Douglas and Judi’s home in Weston in 2012). Douglas is the cofounder of the real-estate investment firm Berkshire Group; George, a Berkshire cofounder and CEO, is a bundler for Obama.
Thirty guests paid up to $33,400 for an elaborate family-style lunch with some wines you don’t typically drink with pizza. They sat in the dining room at a long communal high-top table on stools. (Reporter: “You mean people paid $33,000 to sit on a bar stool?” Owner: “They’re seats that cost $1,200 each. They’re the Navy chairs in aluminum, the real ones, not the knock-offs. For their $33,000 ticket, they were in very comfortable seats.”)
Michael Krupp planned the lunch with Area Four’s chef Jeff Pond, director of operations Joe Barone, general manager Tyler Smith, and a few others. Co-owner Michael Leviton was preparing for Passover at his other restaurant, Lumiere, in Newton.
And then the genies arrived, starting with a large white tent at the entrance and installing the technology they needed. The day of the lunch, some cooks arrived at dawn. Everyone was told to leave the place at 9 a.m. and staff was let back in an hour later; all had to pass through metal detectors and other security.
The menu was served family-style, all at once: New England lobster with caviar aioli on top-loading brioche rolls, rib-eye steak salad with roasted asparagus and romesco sauce, the house shaved Brussels sprouts salad with kale and candied walnuts, roast chicken with caramelized onions and arugula, a margherita pizza, and a braised lamb pizza with goat cheese sauce. Wines poured were Philippe Pacalet Pommard, which is red Burgundy, a Chante Cigale Chateauneuf du Pape, another red, a slightly effervescent white Ameztoi Txakoli from the Basque region (Area Four’s wine guy Chris Graeff describes this as “the margarita of the wine world”), and a Matthiasson Chardonnay from Sonoma County.
And so the lunch began — without the president. The idea was that guests would eat, the president would come and talk when they were done. But things were running late and when he arrived, he went straight to the cafe beside the restaurant to eat a mushroom and fontina pizza with his staff, and took a carnivore pizza to go (soppresata, homemade fennel sausage, and bacon).
Then he joined the group for a talk and questions, shook hands, was photographed with the staff, and after an hour and a half, took off.
“A bunch of kids thought they were just going to work, and they were serving the president,” says Krupp, who sat down with his staff afterward for their own lunch with wine. What was Krupp’s good-bye to the leader of the free world?
“I asked him for a 5-star Yelp review,” says Krupp. “I don’t care what [Yelpers] say. But I care what the president says.”