Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, known for its bold flavors and classic American cuisine, brings fresh seasonal ingredients and smoky, grilled dishes to its new Spring Features menu, which includes Crispy Flounder Filet, Southwest Steak Salad, Wood Grilled Striped Bass and the Impossible Burgerä. Additionally, Firebirds has added refreshing seasonal cocktails to its FIREBAR® menu and refreshed its popular Kids Menu.
“These scratch-prepared menu items are perfect for spring,” said Firebirds Executive Chef Steve Sturm. “They put a creative twist on our favorite dishes by adding fresh, seasonal ingredients to create a delicious dining experience for all.”
Available from March 20 – April 30, the Spring Features menu includes:
- Impossibleä Burger – Delicious patty made from plants that tastes like beef, topped with Tillamook cheddar, vine-ripened tomato, pickles; served on a brioche bun
- Crispy Flounder Filet Sandwich with lettuce, vine-ripened tomato, pickles and our
house-charred lemon tartar sauce
- Southwest Steak Salad served over a salad of mixed greens, charred corn salsa, peppers, onions crispy tortilla and avocado, tossed in house-made salsa verde vinaigrette
- Chef Steve’s Steak Sandwich topped with Sam Adams beer cheese, crispy onions and
house-made spicy pepper relish on toasted focaccia bread
- Wood Grilled Striped Bass topped with our own charred corn salsa and served with a cool Mediterranean grains salad of cucumber, roasted peppers, tomatoes, feta and lemon vinaigrette
- Steak & Shrimp wood-grilled flat iron steak topped with seared shrimp and creamy lemon-garlic sauce
- Southwest Marinated Grilled Steak served with salsa verde, house-made pico de gallo, freshly sautéed asparagus and rice with smoked tomato and Southwest spice; topped with Cojita cheese
Lunch and Dinner
- Buffalo Shrimp Flash-fried jumbo shrimp tossed with house-made buffalo hot sauce, served over chunky bleu cheese dressing
- Ooey Gooey Butter Cake served with vanilla ice cream and fresh berries
“We are also happy to introduce our spring and summer cocktails that incorporate seasonal ingredients, perfect for when our guests want to relax and unwind,” said Sturm.
Firebirds’ hand-crafted seasonal cocktails such as the Slow Burn Margarita, Rosé All Day and The Icebreaker are available through the summer. Firebirds is also offering the only authorized wines of the most-watched and most-awarded HBO series of all time, Game of Thrones, for a limited time:
- Game of Thrones Chardonnay: A rich palate of peaches, apricots, tangerine, Meyer lemon, baking spices and honey
- Game of Thrones Pinot Noir: Fruit-focused with subtle tones of earthiness, vanilla, spice and toasted oak in the background
In addition to Spring Features, Firebirds has also changed up its well-regarded Kids Menu. This menu is inspired by the adult menu, with healthy new entrees such as the kids Wood Grilled Salmon, perfect for any young visitor.
Willie Degel talks About Restaurants, his Vision and the new Uncle Jack’s Meat House
Opening in Spring 2020
Willie Degel is the founder and owner of Uncle Jack’s Steak House. Beginning as a neighborhood steakhouse selling black, angus steaks in Queens, he has expanded his restaurant around New York and now has plans to take over the entire east coast. In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, Rico sits down with Willie to chat about his entry into the restaurant business, how he builds his restaurants into a visual experience, and his plans for the new, Uncle Jack’s Meat House coming to Peachtree Corners.
Uncle Jack’s Meathouse http://www.unclejacksmeathouse.com/
“My father instilled hard work. My mother instilled confidence in us, good work ethic. Being the baby of four boys, my brothers beat me up every day, so I have a sense of fearlessness. I’m tough. I’m gonna keep coming. I’m never gonna give up. I’m never gonna quit. I always had vision. I’m a visual learner. I’m a hands-on person. I have to be in control of that. I have to be involved in it. It’s my personality, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”Willie Degel
Transcript of the podcast:
Rico [00:00 ]: Hi this is Rico Figliolini, host of Peachtree Corners Life and publisher of Peachtree Corners Magazine. I thank you for joining us. This is a live Facebook stream with a special guest today, of a new restaurant that’s going to be coming to the town center here in Peachtree Corners. Not there yet, long journey. We’ll discuss in a few minutes. Just want to say thank you to Guinnett Medical for GMC Primary Care, for being a sponsor of our podcast and family of podcasts that we do, including Capitalist Sage and Prime Lunchtime with City Manager. So I want to thank them and our other sponsors including Atlanta Tech Park and Prototype Prime, which is part of now, Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners. So, without further ado, let me introduce my guest. We have Willie – I should have asked you about the Degel at the beginning. And we lost your visual.
Willie [00:55 ]: Gotcha. Yeah. People try to fool me.
Rico [00:57 ]: There you go. So is it Willie Degel?
Willie [01:01 ]: Degel. D-e-g-e-l. Very simple.
Rico [01:04 ]: Excellent. Willie Degel. So, Willie is our guest today. He’s the founder and owner of Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse, which is a New York based place. I think right now, you have locations in New York and Georgia – in Duluth, Georgia, actually, is the one I’m familiar with. And you were a former host of the Food Network’s Restaurant Steakhouse.
Willie [01:26 ]: Yes. Restaurant Stake-out, yeah.
Rico [01:30 ]: Stakeout, that’s cool. And you’re a native from Queens. I’m a native from Brooklyn, New York. I found my way south to Atlanta. So we got a little bit in common from New York as far as that stuff goes. And the food of New York, if you will, which was a little difficult to find in 1995 when I moved here because there wasn’t good pizza, there wasn’t a good deli, an Italian restaurants were few and far between. Now it’s kind of much better. We’re seeing a lot more stuff coming down here from all over the place, not just from – I mean, Korean places, Japanese, a place from Chicago, New York and stuff. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself? Give us a little background.
Willie [02:13 ]: Yeah. I’m a baby of four boys from Flushing, Queens. You know, Catholic. We had to put ourselves through Catholic school. We had newspaper routes. We shoveled snow. My mother was, you know, worked hard. My father worked. He did two jobs – he worked in the post office and was a long shoreman. My mother worked for a legal secretary. So my father instilled hard work. My mother instilled confidence in us, good work ethic. Being the baby of four boys, my brothers beat me up every day, so I have a sense of fearlessness. I’m tough. I’m gonna keep coming. I’m never gonna give up. I’m never gonna quit. I always had vision. I’m a visual learner. I’m a hands-on person. I have to be in control of that. I have to be involved in it. It’s my personality, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Rico [03:02 ]: Cool. So what – you know, obviously it seems like it runs in the business a little bit. In the family. What got you started in food?
Willie [03:13 ]: You know, I was on a blind date. I always cooked with my father. My father got cancer when I was 10. And he had to retire from one job – he almost died. We made soup for him, we brought him back from death, and then he would be at home two days a week, and he would cook. And I would go shopping with him cause I was the littlest. I would come home from Catholic school, on my bike from lunchtime, to see him. He would take me over to the butcher, go get veal cutlet and some pork, go to this place in Queens, Richmond Hill. So he taught me about dealing with people. About giving people tips. About saying hello and working with the average, everyday Joe that nobody’s better than anyone. And my father worked down the piers and he handled a lot of stuff for Queen Elizabeth, and he took care of the boats and the chefs. And the chefs used to give him gifts. So he used to explain this to me. So my father would set up his meats in a glass, and he taught me how to cook and prep, and he was very clean and organized, my father, and so am I. And that came from my grandmother. So that gave me a little taste and flavor. Then, I was always an entrepreneur. I went on a blind date. We saw a movie, you know, cocktails, and the girls were like, oh my god, you should bartend. I wound up getting a bartender’s job, and the rest is the history. And then I cooked and bartended. I did every position, you know? I run a company now, but I built every position, worked every position, then I try and fill the position and grow the company and build my people.
Rico [04:53 ]: Do you miss any part of that? Do you miss the cooking or the bartending? Do you miss the feel of that?
Willie [05:00 ]: Yeah. Like, I’m home today. I took off today Thursday. I work from my phone. I’m making a seven-level layer lasagna with my bechamel. So I’m always cooking. I love it. It’s a stress reliever to me. I have to be creative. I’m working on building new restaurants all the time, working on building people. The corporate infrastructure. The vision – the next five years. So yes – I miss being the interaction of running just one restaurant and me controlling everything and not depending on so many other people to run my vision. And that’s where the growing pains come. And that’s a, you know, trial and tribulation process.
Rico [05:43 ]: Now, you’ve – you started modestly, right? You opened up a place – Bayside Queens, I guess?
Willie [05:50 ]: Yes. My first bar/restaurant was in Main Street in my neighborhood, alright? And then I opened up the first Uncle Jack’s in Bayside on Bell Boulevard in 1996. So it was a bar – it was the first, sort of, fine, black angus steakhouse. I don’t think anyone knew what black angus even was.
Rico [06:13] : That’s funny – I don’t think it was too far from the – I worked on Bell Boulevard at a nightclub there in Bayside for a while. And, a lot of different – it’s a – it was an interesting neighborhood. So did you find success there? How long – is it still there?
Willie [06:28 ]: Yes. It’s still there. We’re open 24 years. I own the building, the corporate headquarters is upstairs, I’m in that store every day. We have the best customers. People come from all over. You know, that have been served there. And that’s where we built the legacy. That’s store – a small box, fifty seats, catering to everyone, giving them what they need, selling the best, executing day in, day out.
Rico [06:53 ]: So, you had that place for a while. And then, obviously, decided you wanted to grow and open another one. So how did you –
Willie [07:01 ]: We served a lot of developers and politicians, and then the mayors came there – Julianni, Bloomberg. So in 19-what is it, about 15 years ago on ninth avenue and 34th street, they were gonna transform that area with the Jet stadium. And a developer came to me and said, “We want to put an Uncle Jack’s in this building”. It was an apartment building on 9th avenue and 34th street. So I went and looked at it. They funded most of the project – half of it. I raised the other half of the money, built it out. The Jet project never went through, but I worked on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden, then I had Penn Station, then I had the Hammerstein ballroom, I had about ten hotels in the area. So again, I built it one customer at a time. You know, now it has the Hudson Yards, America’s largest, most expensive development ever, built two blocks away. I renegotiated, put another 15 years on the lease a year ago. What a vision of what was transformative in the neighborhood. So that was my second one.
Rico [08:06 ]: A lot of work, and a lot of experience getting that done, I’d imagine.
Willie [08:11 ]: Yeah. I mean, it’s not easy, you know. Starting from the bottom and being a self-taught entrepreneur and coming from a lower middle-class family. It’s never easy. Nobody wants to give you anything. You gotta go out there and you gotta earn it and you gotta win people over. You gotta attack other brands and understand that – why are people going to choose your brand over theirs?
Rico [08:38 ]: Right. Right. That makes a lot of sense. I mean – I deal with a lot of customers. I do use social media marketing and stuff. And it’s really – everyone thinks they have a unique business, but you really need to really point out what the uniqueness is, if it’s there. So, yeah.
Willie [08:56 ]: Here’s what I say. I live by this motto. What, where, and why. What are you selling? Where is it? And why should they come?
Rico [09:07 ]: Yeah, why should they buy it, right?
Willie [09:09 ]: You know, human nature – we have our senses. We’re visual, we smell, we touch. You know, when I – it’s not rocket science here, you know? Technology makes our life easier – it becomes a convenience. It becomes an organizer. It becomes a director. It becomes – it remembers and tracks and does everything for us and creates laziness. But you, as a business man and a businesswoman in today’s environment – you still have to keep your simple models, and you must execute your vision and game plan, day-in, day-out to whoever your customer base is.
Rico [09:51 ]: I – you know, and that applies to probably every business that you can think of, right?
Willie [09:57 ]: I think so. Right? I mean, it applies to Amazon, it applies to Google, it applies to Walmart, it applies to Home Depot, Target. You see their numbers. They’re all coming through, incredible, having great sales, because everybody’s working, and the economy’s booming.
Rico [10:13 ]: Yeah. And if you don’t – if you stay stagnant and you don’t change, you get lost, right? So – I mean –
Willie [10:19 ]: Time, today. I always say, right? Freedom is priceless. Time stands still for no one. People will step right over you.
Rico [10:30 ]: That’s right. That’s right. That’s what’s happening to a lot of these places right now, right? So Walmart is trying to become an Amazon. Amazon is flying away with stuff, right? I mean, no one goes to stores anymore, it seems. I mean, even friends that I know to go a store to maybe touch things, to see it, and then they’ll go back and buy it online or they might actually buy it on Amazon while they’re in the store. The –
Willie [10:54 ]: I – what I feel is – listen. 92% of retail is done in small shops or big stores. So, how much more of that can be done online? Now, me – I’m very progressive. So I’ve been shopping on the internet from the day it started. I was creating my own. But I’m very – I’m a visionary. So I believed it when everyone was scared of it. So you still will have retail. It’s just changing.
Rico [11:25 ]: That’s right.
Willie [11:26 ]: And it’s evolving. And people today want an experience. So in some sense, I always hated the big malls. I like a small town. I like a community. I like individual owners working a niche. And a lot of that’s come back with these many energy town centers. And I believe that’s the transformation of America again. It’s full of evolution, just new.
Rico [11:54 ]: Now, you talked about, you know, customers coming. But you also talk about experience. Experiential, right? I think one of the locations you opened in Queens had a roaring, 20’s style, basement bar/lounge.
Willie [12:08 ]: Right. It’s a hidden speakeasy called Bootlegged Jack’s. You have to go through the laboratory bathrooms, and it’s a big, steel vault door. You have to press this button and a red light goes off inside. You have to have the password to get in. And then the little metal hatch opens up. You tell the doorman the password, and then you get in, and it transforms you into an early 1900’s speakeasy lounge, Bordelo-sense-feel whiskey parlor.
Rico [12:36 ]: Unbeli-that’s an experience. Now how would you get the password? Is that something –
Willie [12:40 ]: The password is based on who you are, who you know, how many times you come to the restaurant, what are you eating upstairs, are you having a celebration? So it’s all done based on networking.
Rico [12:53 ]: So the restaurant – there’s a restaurant upstairs. Is it the normal Uncle Jack’s steakhouse upstairs?
Willie [12:59 ]: Yes. It’s the Uncle Jack’s Meathouse. The same location. So the Uncle Jack’s Meathouse is not a classic style steakhouse like Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse. It’s more of a new concept, where you come to get your meat game on. I’m the steak doctor. So I’m basically a meat expert. I grew up in a German-Irish household eating meat and potatoes my entire life. So I went shopping with my dad, I understand every aspect of meat. I live for it. I love it. I’m a carnivore. I’m a caveman, right? I love the nutrition. I like working out. It makes me feel strong. In this meathouse concept, it looks like an old, meat factory warehouse, but yet it has a level of luxury in the seating, in the materials used. And then we have a great menu mix where you could go there and you could spend anywhere from 20 dollars a person to 100 dollars a person and have four to five different style dining experiences. And it all is entertainment based. It’s very visualizing. The decor, the atmosphere, the artwork, the graffiti, everything handmade, customized, the way the food is displayed. I designed all these metal plates, we got hanging bacon, we got a cookie staircase. We have, you know, meatballs on golf cues. It’s very cool.
Rico [14:22 ]: Now, we were talking a little bit before we started this show that what you – you know what you tried to do a year ago. You had taken over a piece of area that, you know – is this going to be a standalone building?
Willie [14:36 ]: Hold on [dog barking] My wife took my dog out.
Rico [14:44 ]: This is what happens when you do live stream.
Willie [14:46 ]: Right. It’s okay. So Peachtree Corners – it’s three quarters, semi-attached building. And next to me is an Xfinity store. So we worked a deal with the landlord so we had this Xfinity store right next door, and now we have 4000 square foot inside, and then we have about 2000 square foot outdoor dining patio space. Some of it covered, some of it not.
Rico [15:12 ]: Nice. So you’re gonna – so what were you describing before, it’s gonna be the same look and feel. So if someone went to the Duluth location, it would be similar to that?
Willie [15:21 ]: It’s gonna be a lot like the Duluth location, but each store is unique for the area. Each menu gets tweaked for the area. So being that we’re at Peachtree Corners, we’re gonna have this special Peach Compote burger designed just for that area. So little things – we do our research of the area. All the history, who owned the land, who farmed there, what was grown there. So that’s all involved in the philosophy and story and the makeup and the ingredients we use when we’ll unveil a new location.
Rico [15:52 ]: So you’re – I mean, the meathouse is actually also like a farm to table? Are you local?
Willie [16:00 ]: Right. We use as much locally sourced, fresh ingredients, working direct with farmers, vendors, who makes honey, who makes cheeses, who’s raising their own pork, meat, sausages. Whatever way we can, we try to integrate that as much as possible.
Rico [16:17 ]: Okay. So, we’re – how far are we along now? Because it looks like you want to maybe open five additional locations, or five in total in the Atlanta area. You’ve got Duluth. Where are you now as far as getting the building, ground breaking?
Willie [16:30 ]: You know, when you design things at the level that I’m doing, it takes time. You know, working with towns today, it’s not easy. There’s a lot of regulation, there’s a lot of red tape. You gotta fight through. You have to hire a lot of people. You know, this was a fully brand new building. A brand new restaurant. It’s not like a face lift. You’re not taking an existing one. No permits were filed. So there’s a lot of different steps you gotta go through. But once you’ve passed that process and you get your store open, you know, those battles mean nothing. It’s all about execution, feeding everyone in the Peachtree community, building loyal customers, friends, winning them over, making them a part of the family, and getting them to love our house.
Rico [17:14 ]: So do you have – do you have a timeline of when you think things will happen?
Willie [17:19 ]: Well we – the final meeting is on the 27th. We just had unanimous approval on the elevation’s design. So we figure we’re breaking ground in two weeks, and we start building the building. You’ll see all the fencing wrapped. We have great visuals of what’s go come. And it’s the selfie of me on the fence, and if you send in pictures right now, you’ll be able to get invited to the grand opening and have dinner with me.
Rico [17:45 ]: So wait, there’s selfies on there now?
Willie [17:47 ]: No. The fencing that wraps the job site is getting wrapped with this meathouse fencing. Then it’s a full size selfie of me, the steak doctor, and we want people to take pictures and selfies next to it and send it in. And we’re gonna pick about 25 of the best photos and different people to come to the grand opening week celebration.
Rico [18:11 ]: Wow. Nice. Do you have an estimated time of when that might be – that grand opening?
Willie [18:15 ]: Well, we gotta figure, probably early spring of next year.
Rico [18:19 ]: Early spring. Okay. And are you working on any other restaurants or locations?
Willie [18:24 ]: Yes. Right now, I’m talking to other people in Georgia. I’m looking for the belt line, I’m looking for other developers to work with me, I’m talking to the Revel right next door, next to my Duluth store to maybe do a Jack’s tavern or one of my burger concepts there. Or maybe a speakeasy, right? So I have the Bootlegged Jack’s concept. I talked to Miami, I’m talking to Orlando. I’m looking in Virginia and Washington and North Carolina. So I’m gonna try to take over the east coast with this concept.
Rico [18:54 ]: Sounds good. And they’re all company owned. None of them are franchises?
Willie [18:59 ]: No. They’re all individually owned by me. And I have company shares for everyone who works involved in the company, runs my stores. They’re all gonna get shares and be working partners and owners. Then we’re gonna grow the brand.
Rico [19:13 ]: Okay. So you have local partners from Atlanta?
Willie [19:16 ]: Yes. So my team in Atlanta now – Brian, April, and the chef, Chris there – they’re all getting shares of the company. The opening team in Duluth will get shares in the company.
Rico [19:27 ]: So the chef that you have there now – or that you know will be there – what’s his experience? Is he working off – he’s obviously working off an existing menu that, plus the tweaks to that menu, I’m assuming, with you.
Willie [19:40 ]: Yes. Me and my chef work hand in hand. I’m a self-taught chef, so I understand the business. I understand what people like and what people need. So my chef is a creative tool, and he has the love and has the passion. Be able to work with others. And be young and be shaped and moldable. So Chris is excellent. He’s passionate, he loves food. He listens well. He works well with me. And you always say – the rich guy Tillman said, “Shut up and listen.” You know, when you have young people looking at you, eyes wide open, and realize, like, you have thirty five years of experience doing this. Are you willing to listen and learn? And work with me? And build a team? And teamwork, you know, leads to dream work. And that’s what we’re going here. We’re building a dream, and we’re changing people’s lives, we’re taking care of the community. It’s very important today to have place that people could go have a drink, have quality food, fresh, educated, good staff. It’s important.
Rico [20:46 ]: Oh, for sure. And a lot of people are talking about, like, scratch kitchens, right? I’m assuming yours is a scratch –
Willie [20:54 ]: Well that’s what we do. We make everything from scratch every day. We run a lunch show, we run a dinner show. If you see the new Peachtree location, we have this big round tower. I did a private, big round custom-made table in there to sit 14 people. It’s like the corporate event space where all these TVs on the wall for private parties. It’s going to be mind-blowing.
Rico [21:16 ]: So it’s gonna be it’s own private room, I guess?
Willie [21:19 ]: Right. When you walk in the door, there’s gonna be all these refrigerators of all the different meats, dry aged and tagged. How we’re aging them for 35 to 120 days. Also – that visualization you can see from walking around outside the building because they’ll be in the window. All the windows and doors open up. I put string lights, so it’s like a little string appeal in between the buildings. So it’s gonna be really cool.
Rico [21:47 ]: I can’t wait to see it – I can’t wait to see the renderings. I know you said you would share some with us, and we’ll be able to put that on our website along with an article about this. So I appreciate that, Willie.
Willie [21:57 ]: No problem.
Rico [21:58 ]: So what’s next for Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse?
Willie [22:02 ]: We got Peachtree working, I’m working on a lease in Miami, I’m working on a lease in Orlando. So, you know, to me, I’m gonna build one store at a time. The leases – the paperwork, the agreements, the design work – that all takes months. So I’m – me, I’m trying to do that now and the rest is my team executing the game plan.
Rico [22:22 ]: Excellent. Right. So we’ve been – this is great. We’ve been talking to Willie Degel. And – about Uncle Jack’s Meathouse – Steakhouse in New York, but Meathouse in the south. That’s what you’re expanding out on. With tweaked menus, especially to the local area. What was that particular one that you mentioned about Peachtree Corners?
Willie [22:45 ]: We’re gonna do a peach cobbler burger. It’s gonna have a peach jam, it’s gonna have cheeses that go with it. I don’t want to let you know the whole recipe yet, it’s gonna be different. We use it in some different things. We’ve got a peanut butter burger. So we’ve got a lot of new tweaks for the menu just from the Peachtree area.
Rico [23:02 ]: That sounds great. I can’t wait to try that. It’s such a – I miss New York in some ways. I don’t miss New York in a lot of ways, but what I miss in New York is the food from New York and the experimentation and stuff that goes on, and the experience, like you said. I mean, heck, Coney Island’s always an experience I think when you go there and check out the food.
Willie [23:22 ]: Coney Island’s changing. A lot of people developing there. Listen – I grew up in Queens. I live in Long Island now. Long Island don’t have the food like Queens. Queens – you have 177 languages. The largest ethnic groups in anywhere in the world. Its amazing cultural experience – we take all of that and it becomes Americanized. It gets infused. It’s the melting pot of the world. But, look, I love Georgia. Georgia is clean, neat, organized. The people are nice. Everybody’s kind. In New York, there’s grime, there’s wearing down on everyone. I’m gonna turn 52. I got an escape plan. I know where I’m going. I’m outta here in a couple years as well.
Rico [24:05 ]: That’s funny. The escape from New York. That’s funny. That’s what I did in ’95. Yeah. Good luck there. We’ve been with Willie – I appreciate you being with us, Willie. Thank you, and hang in there with me for after I close this out, but I wanna thank the Facebook livestream people. My facebook fans for showing up for Peachtree Corners Live for this show with Willie and talking about the new restaurant that’s gonna be opening up early spring hopefully – mid-spring. That’s Uncle Jack’s Meathouse. Lots of stuff sounds so unique. Can’t wait to have it. But thank you guys – I appreciate you being with us. Thank you, Willie.
Willie [24:50 ]: No problem, Rico.
Little Fin Offers Diners an Easy Online Option
Nobel Fin Restaurant has announced the mid-September opening of Little Fin, Peachtree Corner’s first virtual restaurant. It will provide home and office catering options that can be ordered online. Like Noble Fin, Little Fin is owned by veteran restaurateur Clifford Bramble and his wife Kyra.
“We’re keeping up with the changing needs of our customers,” Bramble said. “Little Fin will be a more casual option for local office and home workers who currently dine at lunch at home or in their offices.”
The offerings at Little Fin include sandwich platters, beverages, salads, vegetable plates, boxed lunches and cookie and brownie trays. Some of the sandwiches featured are Noble Fin’s Lobster Roll, Shrimp Po Boys, Mozzarella & Tomato, Smoked Salmon Sandwich, Parma Prosciutto & Brie and Roasted Chicken Salad. A variety of salads and two soups will be offered daily.
The menu at LittleFinCatering.com will be offered online Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Orders will be placed online and will go directly to the kitchen, housed within Noble Fin. A 24-hour notice is required, and there is a $100 order minimum. Orders can be picked up at Noble Fin or will be delivered for a $15 charge.
Cliff Bramble: A Culinary Adventure through Italy
Noble Fin Owner Talks Food and Travel with Rico Figliolini
In this episode of Peachtree Corners Life, host Rico Figliolini sits down with Cliff Bramble, restauranteur, and owner of Hungry Hospitality, a restaurant, and hotel consulting firm. He has just gotten back from a delicious trip to Italy, and he shares his experience with some of the great, Italian food he enjoyed eating there. Cliff and Rico talk bistecca, proscuitto, paninis, and pizza, and Cliff also shares how he planned and maximized his trip. Enjoy the episode, and maybe have a snack nearby, because you’ll definitely be hungry by the end of this episode!
“There’s a lot of asking people, a lot of asking the locals, and if you go into Florence or even Rome and you see people with their menus in their hand and they’re trying to flag you in, that’s probably not the one to go to. You want to ask a local, ‘Hey, where do the locals hang out?’”Cliff Bramble, Noble fin
“And at one point we were standing up looking at – she said, two million dollars worth of proscuitto above our heads. And it was pretty cool. And so we went in there, we were fortunate – we tried the black hoof proscuitto, which they slice more on the Spanish style – only about two or three inches at a time. And then we tried the twenty-four month and thirty-six month. And I will tell you – they melted – they melted in our mouths. It was really good.”Cliff Bramble
Transcript of the podcast:
Rico [00:00]: Hey everyone, this is Rico Figliolini, Peachtree Corners Life and Peachtree Corners Magazine. We have a really good guest – we’re gonna get into a conversation today with Cliff Bramble from Noble Fin.
Cliff [00:11]: Hi everybody. Thanks for having me.
Rico [00:14] : Yes – this is going to be fantastic. He’s been to a place that I’ve been to, but the continent that he went, and part of the country, but not in the same as him, so we’re gonna talk about that in a few minutes, but ahead of that, I just want to thank a few people – a few sponsors that we have.
So Atlanta Tech Park first, because Atlanta Tech Park here in Peachtree Corners is our sponsor with this podcast room, where we’re doing this out of. It’s an accelerator. One of our other sponsors, Prototype Prime, is an incubator. So when you get to that start-up space and your startup and you get grown a little bit more, you come to a place like this. Lots of workshops here, driven by a lot of talented people, a lot of office space, event spaces, while right down the block is Anderby Brewery, I think it’s called? And there’s a bunch of places – and this road that we’re on, actually, is the autonomous track that’s going to be featured at the Smart City Expo, who by the way, we are a media sponsor for. And that’s happening in September – September 11th, 12th, and 13th. Smart City Expo – that’s actually based out of Barcelona, it’s the world expo. This is the first North American expo that’s happening. We’re a media sponsor for them. And the city here will have the first and probably only off-site demo from that expo showing people this track, the abilities of what they use here, how this track in timeless fashion and smart technology can be a great use for a lot of different companies. So that’s that.
And one last mention is Gwinnett Medical Center. I gotta say – they are a new sponsor. They’re entering Peachtree Corners now – in fact, today, when we’re taping this, is their grand opening day. and if you want to learn more about their services offered at GMC Primary Care and Specialty Center at Peachtree Corners, you need to visit GwinnettMedicalCenter.org/PTC. Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way – a mouthful – we’re – let’s get into sort of the meat of it, the meat and potatoes, but not the potatoes, right?
Cliff [02:21]: Lots of meat.
Rico [02:23]: So this is a culinary adventure. Cliff owns Noble Fin restaurant, and he owns a company called Hungry Hospitality, which is a consulting firm.
Cliff [02:33]: Yes, restaurant and hotel consulting firm.
Rico [02:36]: So you help other businesses – I mean, you have a successful restaurant here in Peachtree Corners, and you help other businesses?
Cliff [02:43]: Well, yeah, I help other businesses, I do a lot of different things, from human resources to financials – there’s a lot of avenues in a restaurant that people need help or guidance with, so I try to help them out using my forty years of experience, so, hopefully I can help someone.
Rico [03:01]: Excellent. But the topic today, of course, is close and dear to my heart cause I love food. The doctor tells me I need to stop eating so much pasta, but, you’ve been to Italy lately.
Cliff [03:09]: I have. I have, and I will tell you – we had the fortunate experience of being able to eat at a lot of different areas throughout Rome and Florence and Cinque Terre – we went all the way down to Amalfi and Positano and Praiano, so we were very fortunate to eat a lot of different areas in a lot of different areas and experience a lot of the different culinary delights throughout Italy.
Rico [03:36]: That is cool. And that is a place I would love to go – the Amalfi coast is supposed to be beautiful.
Cliff [03:41]: The Amalfi coast is fantastic, but when you go there, you better wear sneakers. There’s a lot of stairs. If they tell you there’s twenty stairs, there’s two hundred.
Rico [03:49]: Really? Wow.
Cliff [03:52]: Oh yeah. There’s a lot of stairs, and they have – they’ve been there probably two hundred years.
Rico [03:56]: Yeah, and I saw one of the videos you posted to Instagram. You said “be careful” and I saw this car whizzing by.
Cliff [04:03]: Oh yeah, so in Amalfi and Positano and Praiano, there’s really a two lane street, and on that two lane street, there’s little white – six inch of white stripe on the left hand and right hand side of the street. So you have six inches to really stay on the right and left hand side before those cars whiz by. And, um, you could be in a little tiny car coming by or a little moped or vespa coming by, or you could have a big Sita bus. It’s s-i-t-a bus, it’s a local bus, and they whiz by pretty quickly, so you have to pay attention.
Rico [04:35]: No you’ve – so where was the first – the first actually the picture we have. I gotta show this, we’ll show that first picture. This is – this was the Bistecca?
Cliff [04:46]: Oh, the Bistecca Florentina, yes. So in Florence, everybody is – well a lot of people were in Florence – you’re going to have a Bistecca Florentina. And, interestingly enough, they have them cooking from gas, coal and also wood in different areas over there, and this one restaurant that I went into – I think you probably see the pictures up there now.
Rico [05:10]: It’s a little late – I don’t see it on this.
Cliff [05:14]: Yeah, so, you know, the picture will be coming up. But interestingly enough is – the cool part is that they will slice the steak for you, the one that you want, and they’re going to cook it right over there. We went and we said, “Hey, as a family, we have to go and at least try one of these.” And I will tell you, it was a great experience. Very succulent, very moist, nice and salty. It was a great adventure.
Rico [05:38]: So you just picked out which one you want in that picture?
Cliff [05:41] : Yeah. Ours was a big old ribeye, and, so as much as there’s a lot of flavor in it, some people say, “Hey, I’m a filet person,” but the ribeye that we had there – it was awesome. And the way they cook it – it’s, you know, Florence is known for the Bistecca Florentina.
Rico [05:56]: You know, and how do you find Italian restaurants? Restaurants outside the US anyway – how do you find?
Cliff [06:03]: It’s tough because there’s so many of them, but, you know, there’s a lot of asking people, a lot of asking the locals, and if you go into Florence or even Rome and you see people with their menus in their hand and they’re trying to flag you in, that’s probably not the one to go to. You want to ask a local, “Hey, where do the locals hang out?” And I did find one place in Florence beside the Bistecca or the steak one – it was a little tiny place that seated about fifteen people, and then I had the best lasagna I’ve ever had for six euros. It was the best lasagna. And we tried to go back there at nighttime, but we could not find the place because it was in a little alley, and nobody was around.
Rico [06:43]: Oh, that’s funny. It’s like these moving places. Must feel like Harry Potter – the walls close.
Cliff [06:47]: Well, it was so hot there, we just wanted to be somewhere between walls so the sun wasn’t coming in. But you ask a lot of local people and just cross your fingers that they – that they know.
Rico [06:58]: You know, that’s cool. And those small places – obviously fifteen seat place – you wonder how they make any money.
Cliff [07:03]: You know, I was wondering that myself. And you know, there’s a lot of places throughout all of Italy, and they’re only under fifty seats. So in America, we have these large restaurants that have a hundred and fifty seats, and over there there’s no question – I thought the same thing. I’m like, “Wow, they have to serve a lot of people here.” Either that or they’re not paying much rent.
Rico [07:23]: Yeah well – I know in Sicily, where my wife comes from, that some of the places we went to – they own the building. They live upstairs, maybe. And they just open a – its been in the family for a hundred years.
Cliff [07:35]: Yeah, that’s awesome. And I met a – actually, somebody who’s exactly what you’re saying. And she was in Manarola. And I went to her place probably three or four times in the morning, and then I – she had this Mac Daddy espresso machine. It was like, you know, and I said “Man, that machine has gotta go for fifteen, twenty thousand dollars.” She goes, “eighteen thousand euros.” And so I spoke with her, and she said, “Hey, this is my family’s house, and we’ve had this for fifty years.” And same thing, exactly what you’re saying. So it was cool. She was a very nice person.
Rico [08:07]: The next one that we have is the panini. The panini photo. Tell us – so everyone knows paninis here, I think. If you go out a lot, you might get a panini at, I don’t know, Atlanta Bread Company.
Cliff [08:21]: Oh yeah.
Rico [08:22]: But is that a panini?
Cliff [08:24]: Well, you know what, it’s different. You know how they always say, “Tastes different in Italy?” You know, the paninis there – there’s a lot of them that are counter. So you walk up to the counter and the paninis are there. And basically the nice part is, they’re with fresh bread that is just coming out of that little oven, because the ovens are behind them. And they have slices of proscuitto, proscuiito cotto, or they also have – one of my best paninis that I had over there was proscuitto and brie. So it was a proscuitto on a nice focaccia, and then they took a nice slice piece of brie, about five inches long, and they put it on there. But then they toasted it on the panini press.
Rico [09:01]: I’ve got to try that.
Cliff [09:03]: I will tell you what – that was, like, four euros. You know, the best deal you can get.
Rico [09:07]: What’s the conversion rate right now?
Cliff [09:09]: It’s twenty cents less. So it was about four dollars and sixty cents.
Rico [09:12]: That’s cheap.
Cliff [09:12]: It was inexpensive and you get a great sandwich. So the paninis – a lot of people will go to Italy and say, “Hey, I don’t know where I’m gonna go, what am I going to eat?” But if you’re going through the train stations or the bus stations or even some of the food malls, you’re gonna see that there’s all types of places that you can just walk up to and say, “I’ll take the buffalo mozzarella and the tomato.” You know?
Rico [09:34]: Right, right. It’s nothing like, if you live in New York, you get the hot dog stands in the corner. So you don’t find no paninis.
Cliff [09:40]: Yeah, yeah, You’ll find – you’ll probably find the paninis, but they’re gonna charge you fifteen dollars for it. So in Italy, I will tell you – you can eat pretty inexpensively at these places and have some pretty good food.
Rico [09:51]: Healthy food too, I mean, compared to what you see in street food here sometimes.
Cliff [09:55]: Yes. As a matter of fact, it’s interesting – I don’t think we had one fried item all the – as I think about it, we have – I mean granted we had pizza. we had to have some pizza. But you know, in America, yeah there’s no question. It’s different.
Rico [10:08]: Yeah. It’s, uh, yeah. And, you know, I think – I don’t know. Part of, I think also, food, and maybe we’re getting close to it, is that there’s a lot of free range or more like farm to table over there. Because they’re so close to so many places, right?
Cliff [10:22]: Yeah, they’re definitely – it’s regional. A lot of regional places, so. I will tell you, when you go around different parts of Italy and you eat at different areas, a lot of the times, I said, “Man, in America, we’re on the right track because we’re doing a lot of the same items.” But I will tell you – they taste a lot better over there.
Rico [10:39]: Yeah, well no doubt. I gotta believe that just being out there – the air – wine?
Cliff [10:46]: The wine’s always good. I mean – the wine, every region has their own wine. If you’re in Florence, you know, granted it’s in Tuscany. So you have a bunch of different Tuscan wines. However, if you go to the little tiny place in Amalfi, they have their own wines, and it’s an Amalfi wine. So everyone – different area, regional – they do have specific wines for the regions.
Rico [11:06]: Now that’s interesting. Did you ever try rice balls out there?
Cliff [11:11]: The arancini? Actually, yes. We did have one arancini, it was really good. But, I will tell you, the arancini that we get here in America are about – maybe about three inches, two and a half inches. They were five and six inches over there. So you could have a happy meal. If you ordered two arancini, the rice balls, you would have been pretty full.
Rico [11:30]: Yeah, I miss those things. So, let’s see. Going on, we have the Mercato Centrale.
Cliff [11:37]: Mercato Centrale was actually in Florence. And, you know, interestingly enough, it was really hot there. It was 103 degrees and we were trying to find somewhere to be inside. So we sat well right, right down by the Duomo, and so the Mercato Centrale is pretty well known in that area. And it’s basically a food hall, you know, American style food hall, you know, venue hall. But this place here had everything under the sun from – you know, you could get chicken. You could get biscotti. You could get, um, any type of gelato, coffee, pizzas all over the place. Truffles – they had black truffles over there. I mean, on one of the pizzas – they were shaved on one of the pizzas. But the image that you’ll see – I will tell you. This place was really big, and it was jam packed with people. And it was a cool place. You could get it – you could go from stall to stall to stall, and it was a lot of fun in there.
Rico [12:32]: Is there any place here in the States that comes close to that experience?
Cliff [12:36]: Well, you know what, with all the food halls going up, you look at Krog street market – Krog street market, they’ve done a great job with them. They’ve done a really nice job with that place over there, and, you know, are they modeled after some of these places in Europe? They could be because, they really could be. But at the same – I think they started earlier than we did in America. But there’s – you know, you go to Thaniel Hall – same exact thing. And even in Chicago, they just opened up a really big food hall. But there’s two and three under works here, and there’s a new one that’s going to be going up in Athens in the next year, which is going to take up a whole building over there. So it’ll be interesting.
Rico [13:13]: Even one of them at here, outside the perimeter up here would be nice, huh?
Cliff [13:17]: Yeah.
Rico [13:18]: Not enough people, maybe.
Cliff [13:20]: Yeah, we need a few more people. And a bike line, you know, a line with ten thousand people on it every day. Like the bell line!
Rico [13:26]: Actually, I was saying, when I went to Pawn City Market, I thought that was close to some degree, you know.
Cliff [13:32]: Absolutely. Because Pawn City Market, there’s so much going on down there, and all – they have two floors of all food and now on top of them, they’ve got all of the big tech companies going on and the new Kroger that just is opening at the big building that’s going right next to it, and all the tech companies that are moving over there. So Pawn City Market is definitely a great little spot. Yeah.
Rico [13:53]: I think once they do the apartment complex up in Town Center, there might be three hundred people.
Cliff [13:59]: Yeah, maybe.
Rico [14:01]: But in regards, yeah, it’s tough out there. But um, so, Italy. And you’ve been to Florence and you’ve been Amalfi. What’s the pizza margherita?
Cliff [14:11]: Pizza margherita. So we ended up in Naples. Naples was really –
Rico [14:15]: How’d you like Naples?
Cliff [14:17]: You know, Naples was really nice. I have to tell you – we stayed in this place called Hotel Bellini, which was – when I made the reservation they had warned us, “Hey, this is a sketchy area, don’t be afraid of you see graffiti.” And I’m like, “ahh, I’m used to that,” you know? So we ended up staying at this one place, and it was really in the middle of all the different shopping areas around there. And so we went to this place called Sorbelo – I – there’s two really, really great places for pizza. There’s a lot of places. But there’s number one and number two. We ended up going this place – I believe it was called Sorbelo Pizza. But the cool part is, you’re walking down the road and there’s restaurant after restaurant going everywhere, and you know, you’ve got the Italian center that actually looks like a little red chili. In Naples, that’s where they came from. But, so we went to the Sorbelo Pizza, but you go put your name in to the guy who’s standing outside across the street, and he’ll call you – across the street because there’s fifty people in front of you or behind you. And it’s like a little machine. So basically, he’ll tell you, “Hey I’m going to call your name and number in Italian.” So you have to pay attention. And also, you have to understand exactly a little of what he’s saying. So he called our number and we went into the Sorbelo pizza, and the cool part is – they have these two big ovens that are – they use a combination of gas and also wood. But when you order that pizza, it’s to your table in four or five minutes. And they – this place had a dumbwaiter that – actually, the pizza was made down below, they’d put it in the dumbwaiter, it came up top, and they deliver it right to your table. And they actually have another one in New York City, but the pizza there – Naples is known for the pizza margherita. And I will tell you – the pizza there was really good. And it’s pretty big. The difference is, there’s so many five or six euros compared to in America, where the same pizza would be twenty-six or twenty-seven dollars.
Rico [16:12]: Yes, yes.
Cliff [16:13]: So a little different. But the pizza’s the best.
Rico [16:15]: Yeah, yeah, you know – people always wonder about that. I mean, you know, even I think about that. You know, you talk about Europe and you talk about how expensive it is to live there because gas is expensive.
Cliff [16:25]: Oh yeah, gas was not – they sell it by the liter. Two bucks a liter.
Rico [16:27]: So over here that would be, like, eight – eight dollars. So, but, food’s cheap?
Cliff [16:33]: The food – I will tell you – I personally found, being in the restaurant business, I found that the food was very inexpensive. When you go out for lunch for four people and you spend forty euros, which is, like, fifty dollars, and you have a pretty good meal –
Rico [16:48]: For four people?
Cliff [16:49]: Four people. So, and even all of the – if you went there tomorrow, I would say, “Hey Rico, you can go get a panini with proscuitto on it and brie for lunch, and maybe get a pizza for dinner, and you’re going to spend twelve euros. And if you want a bottle of water – most of the bottles of water are two euros, maybe three euros at the most.”
Rico [17:06]: Really? Over here you have to pay way more for that. And those are big bottles, they’re not the little ones?
Cliff [17:10]: Yeah. Everybody in Italy – no matter where you go – you’re gonna be ordering bottled water.
Rico [17:16]: Did you find that when you stayed – so did you book on AirBnb or anything like that?
Cliff [17:21]: Two of them were – uh, let’s see. I think one of them was an AirBnb in Cinque Terre, and that was awesome. The guy was really cool – his name was Paolo. And he was really cool. He met us at the bottom of the stairs, and I knew afterwards why he met us at the bottom. Because there was, like, four hundred and fifty stairs to go up.
Rico [17:41]: And you had to carry all of your bags up that way?
Cliff [17:44]: Yeah. He helped us. And he said, “Man, these are heavy.”
Rico [17:47]: Well, you’re out there for ten days, I’m sure. The kids didn’t bring five pairs of shoes, I hope.
Cliff [17:54]: No. But that AirBnb was a nice place. And the air conditioning worked. You know, in America, we have air conditioning. In Italy, they have air conditioning, but it’s their style of air conditioning. And at the AirBnb that we stayed at, it was really nice. The guy – it was a nice place, and he was a really nice guy.
Rico [18:11]: How long did you stay there?
Cliff [18:12]: Two nights.
Rico [18:13]: That’s not so bad for the flight of stairs.
Cliff [18:15]: It wasn’t that bad, because we overlooked, I think it’s the Tyrrhenian Sea? And we got to – you know, what we needed to eat was a lot of different espresso that we had. We had espressos, and, we had more espressos and cappuccinos than we wanted to, but it was fun, you know? Ate a lot of different food.
Rico [18:34]: There’s no point in sleeping when you’re in Italy.
Cliff [18:36]: No, we had to get up early.
Rico [18:39]: And you didn’t do bus tours, right? This was, like, you did your own thing.
Cliff [18:42]: Yeah, we did our own thing. We set it up, and, we took – I bet you we did twenty, twenty-five hours of setting it up. So we would land in one area, and we would take the thing that’s called the Frecciarossa train. The red train. And we would take that to wherever we needed to go. And one part – we did land in Salerno where we had to take the boat over to Positano. Which was really cool, because you get to see all of the coast all the way up the fifteen, twenty minute right. And we were supposed to have – we had a taxicab waiting for us with our name on it for the family. And we missed that one. We missed that one by an hour because we went up eight hundred stairs instead of going up the seventy stair level. That was a challenge, but, we figured, you know – but we set it all up and, you know, we spent twenty, twenty-five hours getting it together. It worked out really well.
Rico [19:36]: Yeah, you know travel, it changes, it’s just the general bookings and everything.
Cliff [19:39]: We booked all of our own stuff, and, you know, a few people have asked me, “Hey, you know, how come you didn’t use a travel agency?” And we’ve been there a couple of times. But we really know where we wanted to go. And the difference, I think, with what we did compared to some of our friends who went there with travel agencies and with tours – the tour guide will take you to Florence and you’re there for two hours and, okay now it’s time to go to the next place. So we stayed and we kind of felt like we were living in there and living like the locals.
Rico [20:07]: Yeah, and that’s better, I think
Cliff [20:09]: It was fun. And you know, I will tell you – I would definitely – I would do it tomorrow.
Rico [20:12]: Yeah I’d do it tomorrow too if I could. I need your itinerary.
Cliff [20:19]: I’ll give it to you! It’s a long one.
Rico [20:21]: I’ll duplicate that one. Um, figs. Now, I have a beautiful fig tree in the back, but these figs from Italy – these figs are beautiful!
Cliff [20:30]: So the figs in Italy – you know, the figs in Italy – the trees are ten, twelve feet. And without a question. And the leaves – when I was walking up in one area, it was in – it was in Cinque Terre, where I was walking up this big alley going up to the BnB. And I’m looking, and I can see these giant lemons that are on the trees. And then right next to it, they have the fig trees. And these figs – they’re probably three, four inches wide. And they’re all green, and I will tell you what – we had a couple of them. They were awesome. And sweet and tasty – I mean – you could just pick them right off the tree. Just like anywhere else, but it’s an Italian fig, and it’s almost like a small baseball. So, I have some in my backyard, but they’re only the size of quarter.
Rico [21:18]: Oh wow, that is small. Mine – yeah ours are a little bigger than that. Yeah, ours are probably a good two-inches – an inch and a half to two inches wide. But that was, like I mentioned before, before we started doing this, there was a clipping from an Italian fig tree. So that was why. But, you know, with the American soil, American air – maybe something’s different.
Cliff [21:40]: Well, I don’t know. But I will tell you – a lot of my relatives many years ago when I was growing up, they would go to Italy and they’d come back with a little piece of a tree. And they know how to take that tree, put it in water, and let it grow a little bit. And then they’d plant it, and next thing you know, it was growing in our backyard.
Rico [21:57]: My father was the one with the green thumb. Yeah, cause this thing traveled from Italy to California and to us eventually by a few years. But now it’s been there twenty years.
Cliff [22:08]: Italian fig tree.
Rico [22:09]: Yeah, lovely. Sweet, sweet stuff. Yeah. And I don’t know what people – can you cook with figs? I don’t know. Or is it just – with some fruits you can.
Cliff [22:18]: Yeah, I mean, you can. I mean, but there’s a lot of people – a lot of chefs definitely take them, slice it in half, they’ll put a little goat cheese on them, or they’ll put a little honey on it as well. And just eat them the way they are. Yeah.
Rico [22:30]: And then the cotta cheese. Uh, proscuitto’s a salty meat.
Cliff [22:35]: Proscuitto. We – I’ll tell you what. The proscuitto – we were fortunate. We went to Parma. And Parma is – if you don’t or are not familiar with Parma – Parma is in the middle of the country of Italy. And we were coming from the coast – northern coast. So we rented a car. And that was the only car that we rented for almost a day. And, you know, when you’re driving through the hills of Italy, you’re – you’re going – they’re not hills, they’re mountains. So that particular day it was 105 degrees, and we were dying to get where we going in the middle of Parma, and we really didn’t know where we were going, but we finally got to this proscuitto ham factory. And the really nice part was, the people were really nice. They waited for us – instead of getting there at 12, we got there at 1. And she still was nice enough to take us to this ham factory. And the ham factory – it’s called Rosa DiAngelo. And basically, they have hogs that live in the wild. And so the black hogs, which in America, you don’t see a lot of them being imported, especially for the proscuitto. They are from Spain, but – so she – they have the white hogs and the black hogs. And the black hoofs and the white hoofs. But she took us to where they, um, in their facility, where they brined everything and they took the pepper and they put it all over it. And at one point we were standing up looking at – she said, two million dollars worth of proscuitto above our heads. And it was pretty cool. And so we went in there, we were fortunate – we tried the black hoof proscuitto, which they slice more on the Spanish style – only about two or three inches at a time. And then we tried the twenty-four month and thirty-six month. And I will tell you – they melted – they melted in our mouths. It was really good.
Rico [24:28]: I love proscuitto. You know, most people just think of proscuitto as these thin slices. They don’t see the whole – the leg, which is what was hanging above your head.
Cliff [24:39]: Oh yeah, they were hanging above our heads. They actually sell – this company and themselves – they only sell the legs themselves. They did sell them. And they were from 750 euros to 1500 euros. And, but this company did not import or export anything into America. They were – it was interesting. They would sell those to the local people, but in order to – their business is really in slices. So they slice it all, and they put them in these packages and they sell them all over Italy.
Rico [25:09]: Yeah, I’m not surprised. I mean, when you get Public’s and you get the proscuitto that – the little slices – you look – if you get eight slices in a little pack for, like, ten dollars –
Cliff [25:18]: And you want paper thin – you know, sometimes when you go to Public’s – we always laugh about it. But, you know, my family – we’ve had holiday discussions over a deli in the South, compared to going to a deli in the North. And hey, I want my proscuitto really really thin, and there’s a reason for it, you know.
Rico [25:35]: It’s the texture is what it’s supposed to be. It’s amazing. Well, I don’t know about you. Well, I’m first generation American. So my parents came from Italy. So in New York, there used to be a place in a train station that had live animals. I’d go with my mom. I was little. I was ten, twelve years old. I’d go with my mom, she’d pick up the chickens or the rooster she’d want. Whatever, like the rabbit – my dad would eat rabbit. And they’d take those little, beautiful animals that we would say, “Oh mom, look, beautiful!” They’d take them to the back, and they’d come out all packaged and wrapped up in paper.
Cliff [26:15]: It’s fresh!
Rico [26:16]: But, it was, you know, it’s a different, I don’t know. Just, it’s not like Purdue, that’s for sure. It’s a different food print.
Cliff [26:26]: Yeah, there’s a lot of chicken here in Georgia, but at the same time, it – you know, there’s still places that you can find that – I don’t think there’s much in America, but maybe at Buford highway you can find more places. But at the same time, in Italy, I will tell you – there were two or three places that you could actually go. One place was in Naples, actually, come to think about it. When you look at the store, it was all fresh fish. So there was octopus in the little tiny water bin that had air going into it. And you would order a cone of calamari. So they would take it – as soon as you order it, they take it, they chop it right up, they fry it, they stick it right in a cone, and here you go.
Rico [27:01]: From fresh the fresh water?
Cliff [27:03]: Right from the water. That was pretty cool.
Rico [27:05]: Did you order them?
Cliff [27:07]: My wife did. She liked it, but she only ate half of it. I don’t know why, but maybe it was a little thick.
Rico [27:13]: Yeah, you like the little ones. The little ones are better, right? Well, you know, you’ve – it’s cool to be able to go to Italy. And, you know, to all the parts outside the US. Because really, food is so much different.
Cliff [27:27]: It really is. And I will tell you – you know, they always say, “espresso tastes better in Italy. Cappuccino tastes better in Italy.” And one thing I found out why the espresso tastes a little better was – in America, we have a little packet that’s about two inches of sugar. And in Italy, I found out that the package of sugar are about four inches and they’re filled with sugar. So each one of those sugars that I put into my espresso was really equated to four sugars here in America. And no wonder it was so good!
Rico [27:55]: And you can’t have sugar in real good espresso. It should be drank with no sugar.
Cliff [28:00]: Well we – well you know, we had a lot of – even my son, he had his first cappuccino in, I think it was some place in Florence. And it was funny. I had a good expression on his face of three little – he went to taste it. And the third one was, “This is pretty good.”
Rico [28:16]: Yeah. My first son was like that. And the in-laws, when they lived with us. They passed away, but, they would give him an espresso when he was, like, six years old. They put the sugar in it, and then they put milk. So he had this much espresso and that much milk. But he – he grew up with espresso.
Cliff [28:34]: They would teach – were training him.
Rico [28:35]: Yeah. Just like they do in Italy. In – what was the drinking age in Italy?
Cliff [28:41]: Eighteen. Yeah. So my daughter was very lucky. We were in one place and she said, “I’m eighteen so I get to order wine.” And she ordered wine, so she had a good time, too.
Rico [28:53]: She ordered responsibly.
Cliff [28:55]: She did order responsibly. And over there, it’s, you know, it’s a whole different world. It’s a lot of fun. You can drink your way through Italy, you can eat your way through Italy, or you can just travel and have a great time.
Rico [29:07]: You were doing a bit of Bourdain at the –
Cliff [29:11]: Yeah. Yeah, he’s a little more creative than I. He goes a little more creative with eating some of those items. It was – I don’t know if I would have eaten the grasshoppers. There were some areas that we went to where we could have gotten food like that, but –
Rico [29:24]: Did you see other, I mean, you know people don’t think of ethnic – are there ethnic neighborhoods of foods in Italy? Think, Italian food, right? But did you see other types of ethnic foods?
Cliff [29:35]: In Italy?
Rico [29:36]: Besides McDonalds.
Cliff [29:37]: I really didn’t. Even in the train stations it was all a lot of the same items. The, like, in Florence for example, at 7 AM, the mozzarella trucks are driving all over the place. They’re going from place to place, handing out and delivering the mozzarella. And then they have the pastry trucks. And a lot of the places that you go to throughout the daytime, they have a lot of the same pastries. And they all come from one or two of the different companies. And they’re out delivering all the time. But as far as different types of food – I have to tell you, I wasn’t looking for it.
Rico [30:11]: Chinese food, Hawaiian food, no?
Cliff [30:12]: There was, no, there was a Chinese restaurant that we went by at one point and there were a few people in there. But we weren’t looking for that.
Rico [30:21]: Yeah, of course not. But it’s interesting to see if other places have that. Cool. So, we are – we went through – I wish I had more of the pictures, actually, online. But we can share it because there were a lot more pictures. So what I’m going to do – I’m going to post show notes to this, so when you go to my website, LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com, you’ll see a gallery of some other pictures that Cliff shared with us.
Cliff [30:46]: Absolutely.
Rico [30:47]: Of the proscuittos – I think we have the proscuittos hanging.
Cliff [30:50]: Yes, yes.
Rico [30:51]: We had that. So we had other pictures as well. So, and, I shared the link to Noble Fin, which is where you can visit. Because August 5th is oyster day.
Cliff [31:00]: National oyster day is this Monday. But I’m gonna tell you – I’ll give everybody – just because you’re listening to this. If you come in Saturday, we’re gonna do national oyster day on Saturday. Dollar oyster. It’s called Rock n’roll, Rockefeller, our raw oysters, from 4-7 at the bar. But last year, on national oyster day, I think we went through twenty five hundred oysters in four hours.
Rico [31:22]: So, last time I had oysters was in Manhattan back at, two decades ago. Yeah. Oysters and whiskey, I think.
Cliff [31:32]: Every oyster – we had a gentleman who brought his ten year old son in a couple weeks ago. And he, interestingly, he said “Hey, he eats oysters.” And what the little kid did was smell it first, and then he ate it, which was very, very smart. Because, some people, if you don’t smell it first – every one we open, we have to smell it. But for this kid, he was very smart, he smelled it first. You want to make sure it’s perfect.
Rico [32:01]: I think every little kid wants – yeah they smell, “Does this smell good?” before they eat it.
Cliff [32:07]: They know if it’s not good.
Rico [32:09]: So would there be anything different you’d do? That you didn’t for – if you went back again? Anything different that you’d share that you would do, that you learned along the way?
Cliff [32:18]: Sometimes – when we went to Rome for a day and a half. And I think that was plenty. Florence – we always like to stay at Florence a little longer, cause Florence is so beautiful, and we got to see a lot of different things over there. We didn’t go to Venice this time – we had been there previously. But, you know, more importantly is, if you go through little AirBnbs and you find the nice ones, or the small hotels, because the places that we stayed in all had probably under forty rooms, maybe even under thirty. But you get to know a lot of the people. So, you know, I like to say – say, if we do anything different, we would probably stay in Manarola or Cinque Terre. One region, more days. Amalfi – we were there for four nights – four or five. That was pretty cool, I mean, it’s a beautiful area. So, if you don’t want a touristy trap place where you’re going from place to place every single night, you know what? Stay in some places in some areas two or three nights instead of one. Or maybe four nights. And take day trips to different places.
Rico [33:28]: How’d you do the day trips? Was that, like, did they have Uber type of rides?
Cliff [33:31]: They didn’t have Uber. For example, in Amalfi, we stayed in a place called Praiano, which is south of Positano and north of Amalfi. So they have the little bus called the Sita bus. And it’s not little, it’s a big old bus. And that bus was only one dollar eighty in euros, for example. And you could take it thirty, forty miles. The challenge is, during the summertime, there’s a lot of people on it. So we took a lot of – we lived like the locals. Just jumped on that little bus and waited.
Rico [34:04]: Okay. Sounds cool. We’ve been here with Cliff Bramble, owner of Noble Fin and Hungry Hospitality, sharing his advice on restaurants and all sorts of business aspects of the restaurant business, which is a difficult business, I’m sure.
Cliff [34:22]: It is. It is. Restaurant business is a tough business no matter where you go. It’s a tough business. You’re trying to please everybody and trying to make sure everyone’s having a good time, and that’s the goal.
Rico [34:34]: Yeah. Cool. Cliff, thanks. Appreciate you coming out.
Cliff [34:38]: Thanks for having me.
Rico [34:39]: We’ve been here. Check out my Facebook page that you’re on if you’re watching this. Or you maybe watching this on Youtube or some of the other channels. But the website is LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. You’ll find links, show notes, more pictures from this. I’ll be posting to Facebook as well. And again, I want to thank Gwinnett Medical Center for being a sponsor of this show, and some of the podcasts we do, including Capitalist Sage, which is twice a month. So thank you guys, appreciate you being with us.
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A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta
Prime Lunchtime with Brian Johnson, City Manager
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Capitalist Sage: Bill Frey’s Architect of Illuminations [Podcast]
Boutique Staffing Firm Opens in Peachtree Corners
A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta
Introducing Barbara Joy Jones, DO from GMC Primary Care & Specialty Center
Prime Lunchtime with Brian Johnson, City Manager
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Capitalist Sage: Business Leadership in Your Community [Podcast]
Cliff Bramble: A Culinary Adventure through Italy
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A Hunger for Hospitality
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The ED Hour: What it takes to Remove Barriers from Education
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- A conversation with Aarti Tandon about the Smart City Expo Atlanta
- Introducing Barbara Joy Jones, DO from GMC Primary Care & Specialty Center