One of Bulldogs favorite Athens eateries goes global!
Posted on Apr 24, 2012 by Bulldawg Illustrated |
Kwansik Lee, CEO of Olympic Coliseum Ltd, is celebrating the grand opening of DePalma’s Italian Cafe this week in Seoul, Korea with many of our local friends in attendance lending their support. Lauren Stripling of the Timothy Road location has been over training and helping the Seoul team get ready and will be joined this week by Ben Tibbitts and Dave Cappi.
Here is a great article and link from Athens Banner Herald about the growth.
Janell Niederriter visited with DePalma’s owner, Dave Cappi recently and he talks on family, his love for great food and franchising internationally.
Where did your love of food and cooking come from?
I would have to say it definitely came from my family. Growing up in a large Italian family in New York has its ups and downs. One of those, depending which way you look at it, was the food. Our lives as a group were centered around food. Not just holidays either. I eagerly awaited the weekends when all the cousins would come together at one of our grandparents for a visit. Whether in the Bronx with my Dad’s family or in Brooklyn with my Mom’s, there would be a great feast. Foods like fried artichokes, chicken parmigian, octopus salad, homemade sicilian pizza, bracciole, fried peppers, struffuli, pignoli, cannoli… you name it we had it, I ate it! And I watched all grandmothers and aunts cook for hours. There was one very special event… a yearly “Feast” in a rundown park in NJ across the river… all the descendants from my grandfather’s town in Italy would gather for three days and do nothing but play cards, drink and eat. Family members came from all over the country. It was an incredibly festive, warm time in my life. As children we ran around the park all day long with our cousins and other children we only saw once a year. The older men and women would carry a ten foot tall statue of this Saint with $100 bills pinned to her, around the park every hour with a small brass band behind them playing old Sicilian songs and great smells of grilling sausages, roasting onions and heaping pots of boiling tomato sauce filled the air; it was intoxicating and I realize now, something out of a movie, but it was my childhood.
What/who inspires your recipes?
Initially family and old recipes, but over the years having had so many talented people working with us, DePalma’s has become a representation of so many people’s efforts. I’m not a chef… I never studied… but when my Chef comes to me and lets me try a new dish I know enough to say, “mmm!” If I like it it goes on the menu. It may never sell, it may be wildly popular, but I have to like it. The dishes and specials we try come from many many places over the years. I just got to reconnect with my old waitress Cecily, the inspiration and creator of the Insalata Cecilia. She was gluten intolerant and asked if she could play with a salad that would suit her needs. Upon seeing it the staff and I fell in love with it, put it on the menu and called it after her.
Best part about being a restaurant owner?
The people. Definitely the people. I have customers who started coming in the the 1980’s with these little kids and now the kids are bringing their little kids in. So many days you think you’re just serving food but when you stop and look at it with retrospect you realize you’ve become family with a lot of the people involved, employees and customers. You’re a part of their lives, a part of their fun and a part of their sustenance in a way. You’re there when they have their first date, their engagement, their birth’s and unfortunately sometimes in their deaths. Such is life.
Favorite dish on DePalma’s menu?
I know the recipe and I know how we make them and while they seem so damn simple they are totally addictive and literally make me happy when I eat them, the breadsticks! I don’t care what’s in them they are always freakin’ great, I must say. My last meal will never be a steak or lobster, it’s going to be a half order of meatball and onion breadsticks. If you’re wondering why a half order, they cook better (little secret there).
What are three things everyone should have in their kitchen?
Number one, always eggs. You can make almost anything with some eggs, or at least you can jazz up any dish from a can of broth to a plate of unsauced spaghetti. An egg will save the day. Number two, Tabasco! A great flavor that can add zing to anything, especially eggs! Number three, I guess I’d say some kind of good cheese. Keep a stash of something tasty, worthy and age worthy, not Kraft, but something truly magical like a DOP Gorgonzola, Taleggio, Stilton, Peppato or Peccorino. Great for salads, appetizers, sauces and in a pinch when the power goes out and you can’t eat raw eggs and Tabasco at least you can always go down eating fine formaggio! Can I add a number 4? A great bottle of wine! Sorry the cheese made me thirsty.
Why did you decide to go international and why Seoul for your first franchise outside the States?
In truth it was a decision out of our hands. While we had told those involved in and with our organization that our plan was no further initially than 2-4 hours from Athens and I meant by car. Sometimes you can’t control the way the Universe works. Mr. Lee came to us unsolicited and in truth I never believed that we would make it this far when we all first sat down. His daughter is a student here at UGA and had been a customer of ours during her tenure as such. It was she, I believe, that mentioned us to her father for further inquiry. After several meetings I became aware that Mr. Lee was not just curious he was actually serious. He told us that he had a location in Seoul and that there was a dearth of mid-priced Italian restaurants like ours and that he thought there was definitely a market for something like DePalma’s in Seoul. Upon some more negotiations we finally came to an agreement and signed the paperwork last week. We are all truly excited to be working on this project with the Lee’s and even more excited that we will have the opportunity to do so in such an interesting place as Korea!
Other than your own, what are your favorite eateries in Athens?
Oddly enough I am a huge fan of Asian food. I am asked this a lot and I guess maybe because it seems so different than Italian I gravitate towards what I don’t have in my life. I love Siri Thai, they have very good Thai food and an ability to make octopus melt in your mouth. I also am a big fan of The Grit. I went there last week for my wife’s birthday and had a really great “steak” quesadilla. Oh, and Taste of India. I really like their food a lot. I go there weekly and treat my wife and I to vindallo and tandoori. I guess it’s a good thing I’m going to Asia then, huh?
Apart from cooking, what are some of your hobbies?
Gardening. I know, still food I guess, but it is different. It’s growing something and being a part of that magical process that still only can be found here on earth. I have a large organic garden that I’ve been working in for years. It completes the circle I guess… literally. In the spring I start to pick up the scrap vegetables form our chefs (lettuce cores, pepper crowns etc) and I compost them and eventually put that into the garden. By summer my customers are eating cucumbers, basil, tomatoes, squash and onions from that garden.
Here are some photos of the new franchise.
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I think this cafe is just amazing to eat at. You cannot go wrong with the food at all here. This is why they are going global. Great job on this cafe. toronto lofts
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