Chef John Goettelmann takes a winding road to Notte

MIDDLEBURY — Part of the allure of being a chef, is that you “can pick up and move anywhere and have a job in weeks.” Well, that’s part of what persuaded young John Goettelmann to pursue life in the kitchen anyway. That, and he couldn’t stand the idea of sitting behind a desk.
“I went to Roger Williams University in Rhode Island for a year and hated it,” said Goettelmann, who’s been head chef at Notte in Middlebury since early spring. “So I dropped out and went to the Culinary Institute of America in New Hyde Park (New York).”
After graduating in 1988, this chef and his soon-to-be wife Karen, took the opportunity to bounce around.
Goettelmann was the assistant banquet chef at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, where he learned “how to make 700 chicken dinners the easy way.” How’s that? “With 15 other people,” chef said with a laugh. Then he and Karen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, and he worked for a year or two as the dinner sous chef at a country club. When Goettlemann’s mother died, it brought them back to his hometown in New Jersey.
“We lived with my dad and I was the sous chef at an Italian restaurant for a year and a half,” he continued. “Then Karen and I got married and we were the co-chefs of Le Fromagerie, just north of where I grew up.”
The list goes on… until one day the Goettelmans saw an ad in an alumni mailer seeking new owners of a cafe in Middlebury, Vt.
“We came up, saw the place, worked out the numbers and bought it,” Goettelmann said. That place, of course, was The Storm Cafe. 
The Goettelmanns owned and worked the cafe for 10 years. “We turned that into a monster,” said the 53-year-old, father of two. “When we had our kids we wanted to get out of the business… it just took too much time.”
So they sold The Storm Cafe in 2007 to John and Beth Hughes, and what-do-ya-know… the Goettelmanns started up a new restaurant business in Hinesburg: The Paisley Hippo. Fast-forward another 10 years — that’s a lot of commuting from their home in Ripton — and Goettelmann was ready to walk away from that too.
JOHN GOETTELMANN OF Ripton, took over as head chef at Notte in Middlebury in early spring. He’s bringing decades of experience to this pizza joint and having fun, too
Independent photo/Steve James
You’ll never guess what came next…
Goettelmann decided to work as a mechanic at Cyclewise, the motorcycles place on Route 7 in New Haven.
“I’m an old school carburetor guy,” he said, adding that he’s got a 1967, 912 Porsche, a VW Van Bus and a BMW motorcycle. “I worked as the number-two mechanic, fixing up Ducatis and Suzukis. I had fun for a couple of years.”
Sometime around mid-December last year, Goettelmann went in to Two Brothers in downtown Middlebury for dinner, which was the beginning of his next chapter.
“I’ve known Holmes and Beal (Jacobs) for decades — they opened Two Brothers a year or two after we opened The Storm Cafe,” said Goettelmann. “Holmes basically made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: he said you’ll have your own pizza restaurant — you won’t bother me and I won’t bother you…. And I started in early March.”
Goettelmann technically works for Notte — it’s not his business — but that’s the way he likes it. “Owning my own restaurant right now is too much of a headache,” he said. “I don’t want to do that much.”
But don’t let that fool ya.
This is Goettelmann’s new baby. And if you’ve been following his career, you’ll be excited about what he’s bringing to Notte.
“With all the other pizza in town I decided to bring in some of my house specialties (some people might recognize from The Storm Cafe) like steamed mussels, beef carpaccio and a different take on shrimp cocktail.”
Goettelmann is all about cool ideas and quality ingredients.
Take for example the “Pickle Bomb” pizza with smoky bacon, red onions, dill pickles in a ranch-spiked white sauce with mozzarella and provolone. Oh yeah.
ONE OF GOETTELMANN’S creations at Notte.
Independent photo/Steve James
All the pizzas are served on a 10-inch, crisp, chewy Neapolitan dough. Pies dance from $9-$15.
“I have a reputation for quality… I’m a perfectionist,” Goettelmann added. “I always try to do things better, stronger, faster…. But I’ve mellowed a lot over the years. You have to get what you can out of everyone who works for you. It’s important to use people for their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.”
One of Goettelmann’s strengths — aside from killer food — is he counts himself a “relatively vocal chef.”
“I like to schmooze,” he said. “I like to come out of the kitchen and say hello to everyone. You realize after a while doing this that people like you… most of the time. Plus it’s good for business.”
This is a scene that’s definitely worth checking out. Notte serves dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5-9 p.m. It opens at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, then the dinner-joint turns into a bar with live music after 10 p.m.

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