August Five-Star Service:
Nina Luistro of White Dog Café

Chef Works® will be spotlighting someone in the front of the house each month through November as part of our “Five-Star Service” blog feature. In December, we’ll vote who has the “best story” and dress the winning restaurant with Chef Works® gear! Pictured above is Nina Luistro, photographed in Wayne, Pa., in her Women’s Gingham Shirt and Berkeley Petite Bib ApronTo nominate a server, bartender or brand ambassador, email

Nina Luistro is all about improving lives.

Sometimes that means crafting the perfect cocktail to brighten someone’s day. Other times it could mean administering life-saving aid as an EMT to a patient in need. Whichever hat she’s wearing, Luistro walks a fine line in her two careers that – oddly, at times – can converge.

“If you end up in the ambulance or in the ER, chances are you’re having a bad day and something as simple as a smile or a hand on the shoulder can go a long way,” Luistro said. “It’s kind of the same for bartending. Sometimes people just want some friendly conversation. Each day we impact the people we come across and they impact you. Both jobs are about relationships.”

Luistro, 34, is exactly where she wants to be at this point in her life. She’s the bartender at the White Dog Café in Wayne, Pa. She’s also going to nursing school in between working shifts at the emergency room and on an ambulance.

“The thing I like about both jobs is that it’s always going to be a different day,” Luistro said. “Yesterday is never going to be today. Today is never going to be tomorrow. That makes life interesting. Whether it’s a good day or a bad day, I’m always going to be on my toes. I like being busy and fast-paced. I like the flexibility and the odd hours.”

Luistro split her formative years between Pennsylvania and the Philippines. She moved to the United States when she was 3, and then returned to her native country for high school. Living in two very different countries has given her the gift of perspective.

“In America, you can get a job in the restaurant industry as a server or bartending and you can make a good living and raise a family,” she said. “It’s a lot more difficult in the Philippines to make that happen. There aren’t as many opportunities.”

And Luistro is making the most of her opportunities. She’s always had a passion for helping people. The customers and management at White Dog recognize it as well.

“She is essential to the success of White Dog,” said Sydney Grims, director of development for Fearless Restaurants & Hospitality, which has multiple properties across Pennsylvania and New Jersey. “She is special. She deals with a lot while working as an EMT, but she always has a smile on her face.”

When you walk into her bar, she’ll be eager to make you something from her always-changing seasonal drink menu. But she’s just as comfortable muddling fruit for an Old Fashioned or recommending a wine or beer. In many ways, bartending is her stress relief from her EMT work.

“You have to be happy and cheerful and always ‘on’ because after the bartender is one of the first people customers will see,” she said. “People who are going out to eat are typically going to be in a good mood to begin with. So even if I’m having a rough day, bartending helps keep me on a positive note.”

And it’s the regulars who motivate her and keep her spirits up.

“There are a lot of different restaurants and restaurant jobs out there,” she explained, “but this place feels like my home. One of my regulars was a retired nursing professor and she’s the one who encouraged me to go back to nursing school. In this job, you’re never just pouring a drink. You’re building a relationship.”

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