The Downtown Athletic Club and Ax Billy Grill are pleased to welcome back renowned restaurateur Maurizio Paparo, who is advising with our Food and Beverage department on all aspects of hospitality including culinary, customer service and member experience. For those of you who are long time members of the Club, you may remember Piccolo Euro Bistro, which Maurizio operated and managed at the DAC between 1990-1993.
Maurizio has remained a member of the DAC and brings to us a unique perspective in terms of being a former employee, a long-time member and overall Club supporter. “Being a part of the DAC is one of my favorite parts of living in Eugene,” he says. “It brings me great joy to be a part of the team and share my experience and passion for food, wine and customer service to the DAC.”
By way of brief overview, Paparo was born in Naples, Italy. Before moving to the U.S., he trained at the Instituto Tecnico para Turismo hospitality school in Florence, Italy. Since then, he has worked in the restaurant industry for over 35 years, sharing his enthusiasm for food in Hawaii, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Eugene. His passion for high quality food and beautiful things led him to purchase the Excelsior Café in 1993. Extensive renovations began in the historic building in 1995, which created a 14-room, European-style bed and breakfast Inn, located near campus on East 13th Street. The Excelsior Restaurant is known throughout the Willamette Valley, not only for its friendly, elegant, and charming atmosphere, but also for its meticulously prepared authentic Italian cuisine.
In 2007, Maurizio opened Ciao Pizza, a restaurant in Springfield with an authentic Italian pizzeria experience, which creates dishes made in a traditional wood and gas fire ovens. Like many other regional chefs and restaurants in Oregon, Maurizio is an advocate of local, fresh and organic products from the beginning. His support of the Slow Food Movement throughout the Willamette Valley is simply an extension of his Italian roots. The Excelsior Farm, located just outside of Eugene, was planted in 2008, and provides produce to all of his businesses, resulting in the highest quality and freshest ingredients for guests at the Excelsior Restaurant. “It is nice to know that the produce on your plate is locally and responsibly grown,” he says. “This is an element that we are bringing to our dining experience at the Ax Billy Grill.”
The Ax Billy is introducing a new menu on December 5, inspired by Paparo, which focuses on organic, fresh and locally sourced foods. One of the goals of the change in menu allows guests to revel in the natural prosperity of the Pacific Northwest while providing an exquisite urban atmosphere to dine and enjoy with friends and family. “One of the aspects on which the team strives for at the Ax Billy is to create not only memorable dining, but a social experience for our members,” says Paparo. “We want them to come back and think of the DAC as a go-to place for high quality dining, socializing and celebrating.”
Paparo has been working in partnership with General Manager Onslo Carrington and Food & Beverage Director Margie Gillespie on defining the direction of the Ax Billy and Conference Center. “The restaurant aims to create beautiful dishes and pairings with our hand selected local wines, cocktails and draft beer,” says Carrington. The Ax Billy restaurant and bar now offers exceptional seafood dishes such as crab cakes and fried calamari, all sourced from Oregon’s coast.
Members and guests can also savor delicious wood-oven pizza with fresh organic toppings and a newly retooled house-made pizza dough.
For lunch time, the Ax Billy is focusing on a superior lunch service for business professionals that is executed without having to leave the heart of Downtown Eugene. “Our restaurant offers a delightful setting from business lunches to family outings and special occasions” says Carrington. “A business professional or group of friends can enjoy one of Eugene’s historical buildings while savoring the bounty of the Pacific Northwest,” adds Paparo.
In addition to retooling the menu and experience at the Ax Billy, members can look for a new and improved conference center. “We are proud to say that we are Eugene’s finest urban event venue, with elegant architectural features and all-inclusive packaging,” says Gillespie. “Our focus is client-centric. We take care of all the details of the event and execution so our clients can have ease-of-mind.”
The Conference Center focuses on providing an exceptional environment, from harnessing productivity for an all-day meeting to designing beautiful arrangements of flowers for your wedding. Gillespie notes that all catering is all done in-house with a focus on fresh, organic ingredients grown and made in the Pacific Northwest.
It is our goal that DAC members take advantage of both the Ax Billy Grill and Downtown Conference Center to host member events in Downtown Eugene.
With the strategic direction of Paparo coupled with the execution of events by Gillespie and her team, good things are on horizon for your Club. It’s our latest example of where fitness meets social. Come and join us!