ID: Caci-Wood Fired Sicilian Grill
When CJ Cacioppo decided to open an Italian restaurant, he wanted to stand out from other nearby Italian restaurants. He is succeeding by focusing on regional Italy’s rich culinary traditions.
“We wanted to be different,” Cacioppo says. “All of our dishes have their origins in Sicily and Southern Italy. Sicily’s traditions and culture predate ancient Rome and reflect a broad influx of Mediterranean cultures.”
Early management experience in commercial foodservice served Cacioppo well when he and a partner opened their first restaurant over three years ago. When offered a location for a new restaurant, they launched Caci Wood-Fired Sicilian Grill in 2018.
Top-quality, beautifully presented, casual food in a welcoming, come-as-you-are atmosphere makes the Sicilian fare accessible to guests who may be experiencing it for the first time. Cacioppo credits “a young team that has really stepped up to the plate and taken ownership” of their roles as essential to CACi’s success.
“Every day is a new day with opportunities to serve our staff and then, collectively, serve our customers with the best food and service,” he says.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as an operator?
CC: We’re based in a higher-income area, but we also have a lot of retirees. Our market is used to moderate pricing. We use better, higher-cost ingredients and have some higher-value menu items (which our customers want and appreciate). But this doesn’t necessarily translate to a willingness to pay more. So margins are tight.
How do you try to combat those challenges?
CC: By addressing pricing from a menu standpoint, and by keeping a close eye on product costs and inventory management.
What strategies do you use to mitigate rising labor costs?
CC: We train our staff, work with our staff, are respectful of our staff and show grace. This creates an atmosphere where our employees want to be. We value employee loyalty and work hard to cultivate it.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
CC: The grill and the pizza oven are 100-percent wood-fired. All our ingredients are fresh to honor the heritage of Sicily. We make our pasta, doughs and sauces from scratch, some from my grandmother’s recipes. The presentation is truly authentic. We serve only Italian wines – 35 to 40 selections – and we have Peroni, an Italian beer. Many of the drinks’ names are derived from the Italian/Sicilian heritage.
How do you introduce new menu items?
CC: By featuring some as specials. We get feedback and adapt where necessary. This helps in transitioning to a new menu, as many of our regulars will have already tried the new items.
Have you shifted strategies lately?
CC: We revamped our online ordering, customizing our website to take orders for food featuring our wood-fired specialties and takeout drinks. We’ve worked with vendors to change our menu. Our strategy will always start with our customers and end with a great experience.
How do you ensure a high level of hospitality via takeout?
CC: By making our menu more family-friendly. Our takeout system allows us to focus on customers, ensuring the quality and timing meets their expectations.
Which changes do you think will stick?
CC: Scheduling leaner, designing the menu to be more profitable, making food cost more of a priority.
What does Shamrock Foods bring to the table?
CC: Their care for us.
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