Giancarlo's Anthony and Gabriela Ragusa
Brother and sister act keep their restaurant buzzing
Anthony and Gabriela Ragusa
Photos by Erick Frick
Names: Anthony and Gabriela Ragusa
Location: Giancarlo’s Sicilian Steakhouse; 3110 Main St., 650-5566 or iworldshoppingcenter.com/giancarlos
Current Title: Managing Partners
Age: 28 and 32, respectively
Number of years in the business: 8
Culinary School at Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence
Elementary and middle school teacher
Siblings Anthony and Gabriela Ragusa work together to manage the robust Giancarlo’s Sicilian Steakhouse in Williamsville. Blessed with excellent online reviews and a varied dining experience great for couples and large parties, the steakhouse is going strong at seven years of age, a notable achievement in and of itself. Each credit the opportunity to work alongside the other as a main motivation for starting the business, located in the Tony Walker Plaza.
What is the best thing about owning a restaurant?
Anthony Ragusa: The constant energy. There’s nothing I enjoy more than a busy night filled with moving parts; to me, it becomes a sport.
Gabriela Ragusa: The moments you hear, see, smell, and feel all of the team’s hard work come together.
AR: Winter snowstorms. There is nothing more frustrating than Mother Nature disrupting service. There’s nothing you can do about it.
GR: Not having a time machine. I think of situations that I could have handled better in the moment. That comes with experience, though.
How do your strengths mesh?
AR: It’s easy, because we share the same goals and ambitions.
GR: Anth’s strengths make Giancarlo’s Giancarlo’s. He has a clear vision of our game plan and keeps everything in gear. I would have never been able to engage in the dream of opening a restaurant if it wasn’t for Anthony!
What advice would 2018 you give the 2011 version of you?
AR: Always keep an open mind to new opportunities and make decisions with conviction.
What do you think your patrons like best about Giancarlo’s?
GR: That question is always at the forefront of my decision making. I hope what they like best is what I like best: seeing it all come together—full and abundant. The bright smiles, the clamor of the kitchen, the dimmed string lights, the incredible flavors, the music—it’s just that warmth that molds it all. I hope everyone feels it when they are here. One night, I was walking through the dining room with Mr. Tarantino from Tarantino Foods; he stopped me and said, “Honey, listen to that sound. Those are the sounds you can’t pay for, those are the sounds that bring people here.” I heard the plates and silverware, the laughter and chatter of our guests, the background jazz, and the sizzling steak in our kitchen. I love those sounds.
Giancarlo’s offers premium steaks in a sophisticated yet warm atmosphere
Speaking of sound, if the background music at work only had to please you, what would it be?
GR: I love jazz. I drive to work singing with Ella and Louis in my car and start my day straightening up the restaurant with them streaming through the speakers. We listen to standards throughout the day. At night, Van Morrison’s Pandora station plays in the bar and I couldn’t be happier. What’s even luckier is that we get to have Vinnie DeRosa perform live every Wednesday night!
AR: A Pandora shuffle of Beatles and early Jay Z would cover the spectrum for me!
What’s your favorite thing on the Giancarlo’s menu?
AR: Braised Ragu Tortelloni
GR: Arancini with a Cucumber Divine cocktail
Giancarlo’s seared scallops with spinach fettucini
The restaurant business is an exhausting one. How do you maintain work/life balance?
AR: It has been easy for me, because I view them as one in the same. Giancarlo’s is my favorite place to be on any given day.
What’s been the biggest challenge for you personally?
AR: The biggest challenge is evolving/growing the business while operating Giancarlo’s at the same time. Fortunately, we have an unbelievable team that truly makes anything seem possible.
GR: Not freaking out when the tables are crooked, a server is chewing gum, or there are fingerprints on the window. The little things drive me nuts most of the time. “The devil is in the details,” my dad says, and it’s true!
What’s next for the restaurant?
AR: I am most excited for the further development of our Grivani Wine. We have partnered with a few phenomenal winemakers in Italy to develop our collection, and our next step is to introduce the collection on a national level.