Sofia Italian Steakhouse, 10, and Amelia’s Restaurant, 4, are rustic Italian “sisters” bringing sublime small plates and casual charm to neighborhoods in Massachusetts.
Both restaurants flourish under the guidance of owner Marios Michalakis, a seasoned restaurant veteran who cut his chops working for a restaurant in Quincy, Mass., before opening Sofia Italian Steakhouse in West Roxbury, Mass. 10 years ago. And four years ago, his success inspired him to open “little sister” Amelia’s in Stoughton.
Serving small plates so beautiful that professional photographer Amy Fortney shows off each dish as if works of art on the restaurant websites; the images capturing the essence of a relaxed yet gorgeous dining experience.
“Sofia is a neighborhood steakhouse that offers great food without the price tag of a downtown restaurant,” says owner Marios Michalakis. “It’s not an easy thing to do … no two days are alike in the restaurant world.”
In this week’s Q&A with Recipe for Success @ Boxerbrand, Michalakis discusses the demanding yet rewarding business he makes work so well.
Q: How did you get your start in the restaurant business?
I used to wait tables before going in on a partnership in a little Italian place in Quincy, Mass. I learned the business from the ground up before deciding to open my own place in West Roxbury.
Q: Please describe your niche.
Sophia is an elegant Italian Steakhouse providing an urban dining experience in a suburban location. We pride ourselves on our fine-dining service, extensively trained bartenders, and of course, our food. Our little sister Amelia’s restaurant is a large, atmospheric eatery, a very attractive space featuring mahogany finishes, reclaimed skip planned oak, stone walls and an antique fireplace. At Amelia’s, we take our inspiration from northern Italy’s trattorias, and feature farm-to-table ingredients.
Q: How do you attract customers to your doors?
It’s a lot of ongoing work. The suburbs are a different clientele, and you need to be creative to pull them in, especially during the week. We’ve been creative with our menu, offering smaller, sharable dishes at a lower price point to entice people. And over time, we’ve built a solid reputation among our customers for offering a great dining experience. Some of our most popular menu items include our lollipop lamb chops—they’ve been a huge success – and a fried risotto bowl, which is a meatball sized appetizer. Our customers also love our plantain chips with chicken aioli, and seared scallops. We also offer classic steaks on the higher end, and really nice, handmade pasta dishes.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring restauranteurs?
Definitely do your research. And figure out what this kind of work involves. It also helps to have plenty of patience. No two days are alike, and you need to be calm, but keep on your toes.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge?
Definitely personnel. Traditionally, there’s a lot of turnover in the restaurant business in general, so hiring good people who are dedicated to the restaurant is important to success. We try to keep our employees happy so they’ll keep our customers happy.
Q: And you use Boxerbrand menu covers!
I love the product. All of my restaurants use your menu covers!