When the owners of two popular restaurants in Charleston, S.C. decided to open a third, they asked themselves one question:
“Who doesn’t love Italian food?”
And with that, the creators of Melfi’s restaurant, dove in. Spending two years researching the cuisine and wines of Italy, and perfecting their trademark Romanesque pizza, (along with full pasta menu and traditional fare), the new eatery fired up its two beautiful wood-fired ovens last month.
“It’s going great!” says General Manager Adam Gainer. “We opened six weeks ago and we think we’ve brought the right balance of comfort and classy, with a hip, fine-dining feel.”
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Gainer discusses the hospitality venture that has led to the opening of a third successful venture within the same three-block radius of a historic southern city.
Q: What’s the concept of Melfi’s Charleston?
The owners wanted to bring good Italian food to the north area of downtown Charleston. They researched Italy very deeply, because they wanted to bring the perfect balance to the area. They didn’t want to be a pizza joint, but to be a refined, classy but comfortable place to enjoy a full pasta menu, small snacks, a Romanesque pizza with a very thin and crispy crust, and a deep selection of Italian wines.
Melfi’s is a grown-up, clubby, classic Italian restaurant … with fresh pasta, salads, larger plates. We have a long wooden bar, a variety of linen-draped dining tables, and an intimate pizza counter where guests can watch the action surrounding our two wood-burning ovens.
The sophisticated surroundings are the perfect setting for an intimate dinner for two, or for a proper adults’ evening on the town.
Q: Why is a Romanesque pizza preferable to any other style?
A thin, crispy crust makes it a much lighter meal because you don’t have all that bread filling you up. This way, you can enjoy the wonderful toppings, and still have room to sample other snacks from the menu. We also offer a selection of Italian wines from Northern and Southern Italy, which pare well with all our meals.
Q: Melfi’s is the third restaurant owned by the same owners. Please tell me more.
Melfi’s is the third in a triangle of Charleston owned by Brooks Reitz and his business partner Tim Mink. The other two are 200 yards away and very different in concept. First there’s Leon’s Oyster Shop, which is the most casual and very popular. There’s a New Orleans vibe, and its super nostalgic, serving fried chicken, oysters, soft-serve ice cream, and beautiful champagne. The servers are dressed in jeans and T shirts, but offer a very high-end service. It’s a light, bright atmosphere. Then we have Little Jack’s Tavern, which is a darker, sexier tavern; it’s more up upscale. Little Jack’s just won the South Beach Wine and Food Festival’s best burger. We slung 1,200 burgers for a couple of hours on South Beach. We were up against some pretty famous restaurants in an event emceed by Rachel Ray. The tavern has this great, moody vibe, with green and white checkered tablecloths and like there’s a mobster sitting in the back somewhere.
Q: How did you get involved in the restaurant biz?
I just turned 30 and have been in hospitality since I was 16. I caught the bug. I majored in hospitality in college and began working for this company nine years ago. I started managing when I was 22 and was thrilled when they offered me the chance to come manage Melfi’s.
Q: What advice do you have for people who want to be a success in hospitality?
Be ready crazy hours and the joy making people happy. It definitely has its challenges. We’re going through staffing challenges now because it’s hard to keep staff in kitchen. My advice is to develop a good culture and to Make sure you’re running a business and are making money. Melfi’s of Charleston, S.C. uses Boxerbrand’s Cafe line in its table presentation. Thank you!