The Piston
By YP Contributor

A Smoke Master in the Making

When The Piston’s smoke master Frank Guidoccio began serving up his Austin-style barbecue to the bar’s hungry patrons in June 2010, owner Tarik Zaky had yet to even think of hiring him. At the time, Frank’s rock band, The Order of Good Cheer, was playing its first show at the Bloorcourt Village watering hole.

As per the group’s tradition, he lugged more than his bass guitar along. “He used to bring in his own smoked meat for his shows and give away pulled-pork sandwiches,” recalls Tarik. About five years and 20 gigs later, Tarik approached Frank when reworking The Piston’s menu. Formerly focusing on gourmet sandwiches, with Frank’s help, the bar launched its smokehouse menu in October 2014.

Our goal is to serve amazing food, really fast, in sort of a rock ’n’ roll-y atmosphere. - Tarik Zaky, owner
The Piston, Smokehouse menu, bar service, live music, espresso bar
After meeting through music, smoke master Frank Guidoccio (left) and owner Tarik Zaky now work side by side in the Piston’s kitchen.

Southern Cuisine with Rock ’n’ Roll Attitude

Music is a common thread among The Piston’s owners. Tarik met business partners Jorge Dacosta and Shane Kurenoff long before The Piston’s February 2010 opening – they all performed with various bands in the ’90s and 2000s. Not surprisingly, then, music plays a big part in what Tarik tries to offer customers. “Our goal is to serve amazing food, really fast, in sort of a rock ’n’ roll-y atmosphere,” he explains.

The layout and décor of The Piston reflect this. Up front there’s a raw exposed-brick bar area and an open stainless steel kitchen, while a 1,250-square-foot back room is used as an event space. Featuring a stage, sound system, dance floor and booths, the area hosts live music Sunday through Thursday and DJ sets Fridays and Saturdays. Events cover the spectrum of genres from ’70s disco dance parties to indie rock shows. But though the range is broad, acts are carefully curated.

“We don’t want to be cheesy,” says Tarik of The Piston’s weekend dance parties. “We don’t really go with the house vibe, or the techno vibe, you know, or the club vibe. We want it to be more of a kind of authentic-sounding dance music.”

The Piston, Smokehouse menu, bar service, live music, espresso bar
The Piston’s competition-style smoker burns wood pellets as it barbecues to perfection one of the bar’s southern staples: rack ribs.

Science Meets Traditional Barbecue

Don’t expect twists or fusion cuisine at The Piston. “It’s just authentic Texas barbecue,” says Tarik. Lone Star State mainstays such as rack ribs, beef brisket and, of course, pulled pork are all showcased and joined by sides of beans, baked potato and coleslaw.

“All the shortcomings of not being a fine restaurant are forgiven by the fact that we’ve got this funky space, and we’ve got this wicked menu, and you get the food quick, and you can get it before a show.” But if the menu seems straightforward, what’s behind it is anything but. The wood-pellet-heated oven used to smoke the meat was ordered straight from the American south, and Frank says it’s the first of its make in the city. “It’s like science meets traditional barbecue,” he says. “I’m able to use any kind of wood, so I can use mesquite, fruitwood, hickory, all sorts of cool stuff. I can start with mesquite and then finish with fruit,” he offers.

Still, for The Piston’s resident smoke master, what defines Austin-style barbecue is simple. “It’s all about the time,” says Frank, who notes brisket and pulled pork can take over 10 hours to get just right. “It’s really not about the ingredients. It’s about the wood – and slow cooking.”

The Piston, Smokehouse menu, bar service, live music, espresso bar
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