Frank’s Cucina an Italian Supper Club in Harwich Ma. is approaching the 4 years mark and I am grateful to be able to do what I love. I have loved all the folks who have joined us for dinner and getting to know them. I thoroughly enjoy having the ability to create new dishes with different types of twists on them every week. However, I still get asked many questions about Frank’s Cucina. So I though I’d share with you how Frank’s Cucina came about. Through some of the questions I’ve been asked recently.
First of all here, is WikipediA”s definition: A supper club, traditionally, refers to a dining establishment that also functions as a social club. The term may describe different establishments depending on the region, but in general, supper clubs tend to present themselves as having a high-class image, even if the price is affordable to all. A newer usage of the term supper club has emerged, referring to underground restaurants. An underground restaurant, sometimes known as a supper club or closed door restaurant, is a social dining eating establishment operated out of someone’s home, They are, in effect, paying dinner parties. Pop-up restaurants, also called supper clubs, are temporary restaurants. These restaurants often operate from a private home, former factory, or similar and during festivals.
1. What inspired you to start hosting supper clubs?
Over the 40 years I have enjoyed having many dinner parties for family and friends. Since 2001 I wanted to open a store that would make pasta, sauces and meals for take out and produce one meal a day for the public with a limited menu. My experience of dealing with the general public and employing personnel as in previous business, made me a little apprehensive about a restaurant. My friends have suggested that I become a personal chef. But again I did not want to prepare the meals at someone else’s house or schlep food from my house to my customers. So all came to a stop.
In the beginning of 2011, I had an opportunity to create a business plan for purchasing an existing business and building. However someone bought the building and that was the end of that idea. While working on my business plan I found an existing platform in Europe and the rest of the world that appealed to me: After reading about supper clubs this intrigued me: to be able to have private dining in my home. I thought about this for a while, discussed it with advisers, and it made sense. I was actually were pretty excited about the whole idea. I started searching around to find out more about supper clubs. I found they are prevalent in England, Europe and South America with a few sprouting up in the United States. This appealed to me very much, because I would be able to prepare creative meals and serve to those interested in food (foodies). Furthermore I didn’t have to deal with a large overhead, staff, slow time or seasonal conditions, and additional costs to a restaurant, all keeping my overhead down and offering a creative meal at a reasonable cost.
The Supper Club idea was perfect for me; I have a home that is conducive for inside and outside dining. I could make what I wanted, experiment with different combinations and twists to traditional Italian food, what more can I ask for.
Hence! The beginning of “Frank’s Cucina in 2011”.
2. Tell us a little about the details: how often you do events, how you publicize, how people reserve, how many people can you fit at each supper club, and what if any crazy attempts people make to get into an already full dinner?
I do a weekly dinner event every Saturday evening (hoping to go to 2 nights).
My only way of publicizing is through word-of-mouth, my website, social media such as Facebook, twitter, foursqare, tripadivsor & yelp. I also do outreaches to radio and have given cooking demonstrations.
Reservations are made through the website (which I use a service for). I generally put the menu’s on the website 4-6 weeks in advance and also place an event listing on Facebook as well. Anyone interested in coming to a dinner is directed to the website, for more information and reservations.
3. What’s your relationship to Italian food? Did you grow up eating it or do you just love making it?
I’m a second-generation Italian who grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Paterson New Jersey. I learned cooking from my mother and my grandmother (Who was Neapolitan) she lived upstairs on the third floor. In this neighborhood I would walk to the bakery to get bread, to the market to get vegetables, fish from the fishmonger, meat from the butcher and chicken from uncle Tommy’s poultry store.
I married into an Italian family from Tuscany (actually Boni de Luca) and again lived in an Italian neighborhood in Illinois, where everything was self-contained. I loved eating this regions food and learning, about the region and how to cook its food. Also for 35 years I was blessed to travel with my job and was able to eat in some of the best restaurants in the country. When I came home I tried to mimic some of the food I had eaten.
My passion for food has not wavered since I was a child. I loved watching or helping prepare our meals, either making pasta with gravy, roasts, fish courses and deserts for Sunday, or the massive spread for our holiday dinners that we would sit for hours and eat. (By now I have honed my culinary skills from the high school and college jobs I had cooking.) In addition I have learned how to create what I had eaten at some of the restaurants I traveled to.
In either case, since 2001 I’ve concentrated on my Italian cooking heritage and since 2011 at Frank’s Cucina. Always keeping in mind what grandma said, “It’s your right to have the best” and now “I give you my best and I hope it is good enough for you”.
4. What is involved in your decision making process about the food you serve at each supper club?
I started off just putting a menu together, and then decided to tie it to a theme of a festival in Italy that is occurring at that time. I Try to make the food of that region for the evening. I tend to take a traditional meal and do my own twist on it, where I can create different flavors and presentations, always trying to keep it simple. I consider what is locally fresh and available, what is seasonally available through local providers (i.e. Fish) and where I can get the freshest meats. I have to keep in mind that I’m serving the public and watch what types of food I serve (for example some forms of squid, which I love, most people don’t). I’m careful about the balance in the meal because I am serving 4 to 8 courses plus a granita.
5. What would you say were the greatest challenges were when you first started hosting supper clubs? Are they the same challenges you face currently?
I am almost 4 years old and my challenges are the same as when I opened, how do I get people in the door? And these challenges are many. I am the only supper club on the island of Cape Cod,
Some are apprehensive, regarding the quality, some don’t like sitting at a communal table, some don’t like to use the payment service, some think it is expensive (what do they know), also I serve on Saturday and some call on Friday and I can’t accommodate them because reservations are closed on Tuesday (this is to enable me to order food and start prep on Wednesday thru Saturday).
The bottom line is the Supper Club is considered a new idea here, and there are a lot of folks that don’t understand.
6. What do you love about being an independent chef?
I love to create and cook and Love to hear my customer’s’ ummmmsss.
Of course the independence that I have with food, growing vegetables and herbs (which I have for years: nothing like fresh ingredients), writing new recipes and creating a meal that is evolves into so many levels of flavors. I am passionate about my food and it usually is evident once you have eaten here.
It brought me back to my heritage (I’ve been told I should move to Italy). I love creating a new meal using the simplest of ingredients that makes a wow factor, and creating the presentation (always thinking I could have done something different). I look forward to where it takes me next. I’m looking forward to continuing my blog on the diners and other things regarding food (more will be revealed).
Articles on Supper Clubs:
Mi casa, su cuenta Have you ever visited a ‘secret’ restaurant? Would you ever consider opening your kitchen at home to paying diners?