With three successful restaurants, I kind of felt the need to get more corporate and find ways to standardize a high level of quality and service for all of the locations. In 2002, I started Spuntino Bakery with TiramesU’s former chef, Carlo Donadoni. The bakery would provide bread, pizza dough, pasta and other items to the restaurants. The company developed into Spuntino Bakery and Catering in 2004 to serve the rising demand of catering events which the restaurants themselves were not able to satisfy.
In 2007, I took on a new challenge partnering with Mark Soyka and Luca Voltarel (who’s also a partner in Segafredo) to co-own and manage the historical Van Dyke Café. We refreshed the menu, renovated the Upstairs and re-energized the music line-up.
2011 was another busy year. In May, the partnership with Mark Soyka was reinforced when we started managing Soyka, his namesake restaurant in the MiMo District/Biscayne Corridor. The restaurant first opened its doors back in 2001.
In December 2012, in partnership with Carlo Donadoni and Chef/owner Angelo Masarin, Salumeria 104 was born. The authentic Italian trattoria was a concept missing in bustling Miami, and Midtown is the perfect location for the restaurant. Salumeria 104 is definitely one of the foodie hot spots and critics’ favorites.
As you can see, I welcome longtime partnership and committed employees into business. I believe that having the partners directly involved with the day-to-day operations is a great incentive.
In 2013, I partnered up with long time Graspa corporate chef Alberto Marcato to open a second Spris location after studying, for a long time, industry trends and customers’ demand. This new location is slightly different, following the growing movement in fast casual dining.
Q. Please tell me about the new Spris in downtown Miami that just opened. How is it different from the Spris on Lincoln Road?
A. The new Spris Pizza in downtown is the first restaurant of a new concept. With partner and corporate chef Alberto Marcato, we have modified the original Spris and decided to launch Spris Artisan Pizza as a franchise concept. To quickly grow this winning formula, we embraced a partnership with Granite Transformation. This partnership may seem a bit strange, but I truly believe this partnership will assist us in our plans to franchise this concept.
Granite Transformation is a leader in their industry with franchise operations selling kitchen countertops not only in the U.S.A., but around the world.
The new Spris Pizza will be a fast-casual franchise, serving the same high quality thin-crust pizza, delicious paninis and healthy salads that we are known for on Lincoln Road.
We are already working on a second location set to open in November in Midtown. This new partnership will merge our extensive experience in the restaurant business with their expertise in franchising to create a new successful authentic Italian pizza chain.
Q. You also own Graspa Group. Please tell me about that.
A. Graspa Group is the result of our need to become a little more structured and corporate. Between all the restaurants, we employ around 400 people. Graspa Group takes care of the human resources, all the accounting, marketing, controlling and purchasing for the restaurants. That gives us more contract power, and most of all helps us be consistent with the quality of products and standardize processes, control costs and be more efficient overall.
Q. There has been a strong rumor that you are closing restaurants on Lincoln Road, such as the Van Dyke Café, TiramesU and Spris. What are your plans?
A. That’s just a rumor. Lincoln Road has been going through a lot of changes lately. National brands wish to be present on Lincoln Road with their flagship stores.
In all our Lincoln Road locations we have a good standing lease.
The rumor started a year ago when the building where Van Dyke Café is located was sold, and from there all the rumors about the street were triggered.
We feel part of the growth of Lincoln Road, we have been there since 1997, when it was not even half of what it looks like now.
Q. What is your favorite meal at which of your restaurants?
One says you never forget your first love. So my very first answer, from the heart, would be TiramesU. I’m Italian and I love pasta, with any white sauce. But the truth is that each of my restaurants has at least one meal that’s my favorite.
Q. What is next for you?
A. Right now I’m focusing on the new Spris Pizza project. Between the existing restaurants and Spris Pizza, I believe I have my hands full, although I love complicating my life with new challenges… so you never know.
It’s my priority to spend more time with my lovely wife and my two children. I want to dedicate more time to them and enjoy the most amazing gift of all, life.