More than two years after leaving Edmund’s Oast for a peripatetic stretch that included stints aboard a deep-sea fishing boat and behind the bar at Faculty Lounge, Reid Henninger is again an executive chef, leading the kitchen at the soon-to-expand Monza.
“I feel good about being part of this company,” Henninger says. “I took a pretty extended hiatus from any kind of chef position, so I’m excited to work with (co-owner) Brooks (Reitz), who I’ve professionally respected for years. It’s a place that operates with the employee in mind.”
Emily Hahn, who was named executive chef at The Getaway after a successful run at Warehouse, will serve as chef de cuisine. Henninger says she took on the role after first picking up a few part-time shifts. “Just spirit-wise in the kitchen, she’s very easy to communicate with and connect with, as far as a working creative partnership."
Like Henninger, Hahn spent time outside the kitchen after her last full-time position, giving her time to consider what she valued most. She says she's happy to join a company "packed with caring people who are supportive and good to their employees."
She's looking forward to collaborating with Henninger. "He's one of the kindest, most hard-working, methodical chefs I've ever worked with, and I'm excited to get back into a kitchen that will be a fun project."
Reitz described hiring Hahn as “a nice full circle moment,” since she worked at Monza when it opened in 2007.
"It really was the first place to get a good salad as a meal," Hahn recalls, calling Monza "the first of its kind."
The restaurant’s consulting chef at that time was Mike Lata, who also helped bring together Henninger and Reitz. The two briefly overlapped at The Ordinary after the restaurant arrived on upper King Street in 2013, with Reitz as its opening general manager. Henninger, then an intern, was in his first Charleston kitchen job since giving up a planned studio art career for restaurant work after finding his professional passion at Kickin’ Chicken.
Reitz and partner Tim Mink this fall announced plans to close Closed for Business so Monza could expand into the adjoining space, picking up a full bar in the process. Reitz envisions the remade Monza as “a more casual, pizza-focused counterpart to Melfi’s,” which also belongs to their restaurant group.
To that end, Henninger says the plan is to stick with the restaurant’s core menu of pizza and salads, but “make sure we’re serving them to best of our abilities,” which translates to a few minor changes.
“We’re going to ever so gently tweak the pizza, but it will only be noticeable to discerning palates, if you know what I mean,” he says. “We’re definitely keeping the spirit of Neapolitan-ish pizza.”
Henninger is also developing a range of new dishes to round out the restaurant’s longstanding selection. While he declined to elaborate on the additions, he says, “simplicity is going to reign supreme.”
Monza will close briefly in mid-January for final interior renovations, and then reopen soon thereafter as Monza Pizza Bar, with the new menu in place. “I’m thrilled to have the talent in the kitchen which I think will really define this reopening,” Reitz says.