It started with a random question sent to me via Facebook chat. One of my friends was helping her daughter with her homework. The posting read, “Emily needs to do a survey for school and ask 50 people a question. She’s asking: If you could open a restaurant, would it be Italian, Steak house, Mexican or Seafood?”
For anyone who works in the food industry, that’s a question they have likely pondered at one time or another. And, if they’ve worked in the industry long, have immediately talked themselves out of lingering over the thought. Opening a restaurant is never as romantic as it looks, never as accommodating to a family schedule as you’d think, and rarely as satisfying as people hope.
Perhaps that’s why, in some ways, running a successful restaurant is the ultimate job. It means you have been willing to sacrifice family and friend time. It means the long hours and the hot kitchens haven’t stopped you. It means you managed to capitalize yourself enough to stay afloat, even when people cut back their eating out budgets.
So, huge kudos to those who own and run restaurants.
I did have to ponder it. If I opened a restaurant, I’ve always thought of it as more of a breakfast alternative. I want to make homemade cinnamon toast, and delicious sweet breads, and serve fabulous coffees and teas. That’s not Italian, Steak house, Mexican or Seafood.
Mexican is one of my favorites to go out for, but I rejected that since I really don’t know how to cook Mexican food. I can do an Americanized version, but for true Mexican flavors I have to visit Frontera Grill in Chicago, or my favorite B&B in Tlaquepaque, Mexico, the Quinta Don Jose.
I love a good steak once in a while, and have my favorites, but I have expensive steak tastes (hello, Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris, Smith & Wollensky). Opening a high-end restaurant in this economy? Nope.
As for seafood, I’m a huge fan. Just the memory of The Mooring Restaurant in Newport Beach, R.I., makes my mouth water. But for the most part, it requires living on a coast to ensure the kind of variety and freshness I’d want to offer. And, while I’d welcome a move to the coast, it’s not in the cards just yet.
Italian, on the other hand, offers advantages. It’s my husband’s favorite, so he’d be more likely to pitch in. In fact, if we could just move onto The Hill in St. Louis in order to be close to Charlie Gitto’s, and Zia’s, and Favazza’s, and Cunetto’s (get the picture?), he’d be a happy camper. Decorating for high end or mom and pop is pretty straight forward in Italian—and romantic, either way; just give me candlelight and soft music. When it comes to the food, I’m more of a baker than cook, so I could contribute some amazing fresh breads and olive oils to the mix. And, I make a mean tiramisu.
And then I remembered Jeff Sinelli, founder of Which Wich?, telling me about the research time he spent on a new concept, Burguesa Burgers. He traveled the country and internationally, tasting burgers and narrowing down the flavors and products he wanted to create. I think a year of living in Italy might just be required before opening a truly authentic Italian restaurant, don’t you?
So, I replied, “Italian. The research time would be awesome. Plus, I can bake the garlic bread. Not so great with tortillas.”
I don’t know that the others analyzed their response quite this much—most probably chose their favorite food. Either way, I found out the next day that Italian was the number one response, so I guess I can add “popularity in market polls” to my reasoning!
I also found out that the question was part of Emily’s Exploratory class. I like the fact that young people are challenged to think about these things and to get people’s opinions. I like to think that many of the 50 people in her poll sent explanations as to why they chose what they chose. For me, it was hard to just say “Italian” without offering the reasoning around it.
So, think it through. Have you ever wanted to open a restaurant? If so, what would it be?
Photos from Louise’s Trattoria; see related story.