I use the term “day job” loosely…very loosely. Because, being a restaurateur takes up most of the 24 hours in a day, not just the typical nine to five. And it’s not really a job, it is a lifestyle choice. If you don’t mind working late on weekends, covering the occasional dishwashing shift or snaking a floor drain when someone throws too many straws down it, then being a restaurant owner may be for you.
When I am not traveling the world making checks on my bucket list, you can find me working at my restaurant, Sugo Trattoria.
Sugo Trattoria is a casual Northern California restaurant that marries the traditions of old world with the wine country food culture of Sonoma County.
Peter and I have owned Sugo Trattoria for almost six heavenly years. I may be using the term “heavenly” loosely too.
It has been a labor of love. Emphasis on labor.
We both have strong restaurant backgrounds that range from dishwasher to server to chef to owner. It is in our blood. Just like wine.
All of our hard work, passion and sleepless nights have paid off. Sugo is Michelin Recommended, highly Zagat rated and most of the people on Yelp like us (some think we need to bathe more, but that’s an entirely different story). All of that, besides the bathing part, means we serve really good grub.
The most common questions answered:
Do you cook? Yes and I am pretty damn good at it. At least when it comes to Italian food. Peter and I are both chefs and the sole creators of our menus. It is what we enjoy doing most.
But, we never cook at home since we only live 4 blocks from the restaurant.
My garlic is already chopped and I have a dishwasher at work, why would I want to cook at home? If you come to my house, I will gladly offer you microwavable popcorn, three year old granola bars, bottled water and, of course, red wine. Though, it’s much better to come to the restaurant if you don’t think that low-fat popcorn pairs well with Zinfandel.
How can you work with your husband everyday? We drink a lot of wine. A lot. And we kind of like each other. Even without the wine.
How can you travel so much as a restaurateur? I have spent the last three years diligently setting up our restaurant to be able to run without us.
And without it catching on fire.
In the early stages Peter and I took vacations solely to Arizona on separate days, overlapping for one night. This way both of us were only away from the restaurant, at the same time, for no more than twenty-four hours. One day eventually turned into three, which turned into seven. And last month we escaped on our longest travels ever to Hong Kong and Thailand where he was gone for 11 days and me a whopping 21!
And the restaurant was still standing when we returned. Bonus.
It has been six years filled with triumphs, failures, frustrations, a whole lot of laughs and a little bit of wanting to poke our eyeballs out with toothpicks.
14 thoughts on “My Day Job as an Italian Trattoria Restaurateur”
No. Never. Ever.
Our son graduated from Penn State with a degree in hotel, restaurant and institutional management. The students run one “real” restaurant at the University. During his last semester, with offers to be flown out to Las Vegas for job interviews in Food and Beverage management, our son decided he didn’t want to work in the industry. At first I was stunned, “You’re kidding?” But, I realized that he really had worked hard in all his positions and he had had broad exposure across “the industry”. I think I “got it” even more when I read a reference one of his professor’s had written for him: “Ben is the best I’ve ever seen at motivating unmotivated people.” I would imagine that could get old really fast in real life.
PS: Ben works as a project manager for clinical trials in smoking cessation studies at a University—-where part of his job is — motivating unmotivated people. ;-)
What a story. I love what I do (most of the time), but can absolutely relate!
Wow I am soooo impressed! And I also really, really want to eat at your restaurant haha!!! Congrats on your success — you and your hubby deserve it!
If you are ever in Northern California wine country, let me know! Would love to have you dine with us :)
I loved reading this behind-the-scenes look at being a restaurant owner. I always wondered whether chefs go home and cook. Guess you answered that question. ;)
I would never want to own a restaurant. It seems so stressful and I would have imagined that you’d never get a day off. Plus, I’m just not creative in that particular way.
My husband, however, has long dreamed of owning a restaurant or bakery. I told him I’d work the register, but that’s about it. If it turns into a serious dream, I’ll be supportive, but I’m hoping it remains a pipe dream, because I think it’s much harder than you’ve let on in this post.
You are right, it is much harder than this post indicates. That’s why I’ve decided to add the category “restaurant life” to my blog, so I can share the triumphs, failures and frustrations. Besides, any time you have employees and customers humorous stories are bound to happen. Lots of them :)
Well, I hope one day I get to dine at your restaurant! In fact…it’s going on my life list!
I would love to have you dine there :) Let me know if you are ever in northern California!
Dining at your restaurant is also going on my list. I hope to visit Northern California one of these days. My parents are returning this week from a trip out west and were in your area. If I had known about this even a week ago I could have suggested they stop in. :-) I have had some family who ran restaurants at different times, and I got the impression it was more than enough work. I don’t cook nearly well enough and have no skill managing other people. :-) I do like to eat and drink though so I make a perfect customer. ;-) Thank you for answering some questions about your day job.
You definitely will have to stop by if you are in the area!! Managing people is one of the most difficult aspects about my job. But, I hope that I am getting better at it after so many years.
Chef,business owner and World Traveler. Add in blogger, where do you find the time!
Good question! I am great at multi-tasking and making to-do lists :)
Yes, currently an undergraduate student in computer science, but I am not completely sure what I want to do in life. I was writing my own bucket list tonight when I came across yours. It is inspiring. I might steal it :) Feel free to reach out via email, if it is possible, introduce yourself as the awesome bucket list blogger. Your life is an inspiration and I do not say that lightly.
I am very happy to hear that you were writing your bucket list! I know that mine has completely changed my life and I hope yours does the same for you. Feel free to steal whatever you want from my list, that’s what it’s there for :)