Whether it’s his impressive beard, vintage Stetson, eclectic mix of turquoise + silver rings, or magnetic creative energy, Joseph Verzilli of Lockeland Leatherworks is easy to pick out of a crowd. The local maker is the mechanical genius behind Tavern at Bobby’s impressive leather menu covers, making each by hand in his studio just northeast of the city. Over black coffees and a soundtrack featuring the likes of Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys, Joey sits down with Bobby to talk shop and shed a little light into his creative process.
This Is Great, Because You’ve Been Around For This Whole Process With Us
JV: The first time I came into Bobby was the day they laid the floors in the Tavern and in the lobby. It’s always interesting for me, too, because when I started doing leatherwork I never thought that I’d be involved in the hospitality industry at all. But, as it turns out, those have been some of my favorite projects and relationships. I love that I’ve gotten to be a part of this.
Can you describe what the process was like when you started on the Tavern project?
JV: Thankfully, a lot of the people I’ve worked with have given me tons of creative freedom. And for the Tavern menus specifically, that’s not your cookie-cutter leather menu. Those were pretty involved. Multiple stamping locations, the stitching of the flap… those are without a doubt my favorite menus I’ve had a chance to do.
I remember coming to Bobby with swatch books for the first time, and we were seeing how all these different samples looked in different lighting, on the tables, against the banquettes. And we ended up finding that perfect charcoal-gray color. That particular leather has actually become some of my favorite leather that’s ever come across my table.
There’s so much soul that goes into things like menu covers, too. They help tell the story in such a different way than, say, a standard plastic menu. There’s so much thought that goes into it.
JV: They absolutely do tell the story. Usually, people don’t put a ton of thought into that kind of stuff – so when Bobby reached out to me, it was great to encounter someone in a different brand and business that understands it does make a difference. To give thought to something as small as a leather menu that every single person that sits down in the restaurant will hold in their hands, that’s pretty awesome.
There’s something neat about leather in general, how it folds and creases, how every person that touches it will somehow leave a mark. It’ll change and age over time, and can be a kind of metaphor for the “community soul” of the property itself.
JV: To me, that’s the vibe of Bobby right there. Even when the leather is brand new and we first roll it out, it still has this certain feel. A little rough around the edges, a little bit rugged, but you know it’ll go through the trenches and come out on the other side weathered and smooth. And even from the first time discussing this project, that was the sentiment of what Bobby was all about: this world traveler that has been all over the place, and as esoteric as it might sound, the leather itself is rugged but resilient and elicits that same idea.