Meet Nino!

Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.

Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.

What does your company do?

Zia Gianna is an Italian Bakery and Café located in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. Our goal is two-fold: we aim to bring traditional Sicilian recipes to Boston, and work to provide customers with a comfortable, homey atmosphere in which they can enjoy anything from a cup of coffee to a full Italian lunch. We serve authentic savory dishes like scacciata, sweet treats such as tiramisu, semifreddi, and torte, imported Italian coffee, and sandwiches made with homemade Sicilian “brioscia.” We also provide catering services, and accommodate custom private and semi-private events.

We designed the space with the same goals in mind. Each element from the imported handmade Sicilian ceramics, to the drawings of lemons, to the brightly painted walls offers, in some way, a little piece of Sicily.

What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?

I am the Owner and Executive Chef of Zia Gianna. I had always wanted to open a Café, ever since I was a child working in my family’s restaurant, and was thrilled to finally realize that dream this past December. I love interacting with my customers and value getting to know them as people – their names, what food they like, who their children are. I enjoy making them feel like they are my guests in my home dining room, just as my aunt (Zia) Gianna used to do in her own home back in Sicily years ago. I am also very passionate about the history and culture of my food, so sharing those flavors and stories with my customers is incredibly important to me.

What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?

We have only been open for two months, but right now our major challenges are visibility and the basic financial difficulties that come with opening a new restaurant. If we are not visible, people won’t know we exist, and if new customers don’t come, we won’t be able to sell enough to survive. Because our goals are quality and authenticity, everything we serve is created from scratch. In short this means that our food is more expensive than pre-made or frozen food, and our margins are much smaller than, say, a restaurant whose only goal is quantity. We are lucky to be in a great community, with wonderful customers who have given us excellent feedback, but we will have to continue to work to bring new people in on a daily basis. Only time will tell!

If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?

Besides the usual things that everyone tells you when you express the idea of opening a restaurant (i.e. “are you crazy? It is a lot of work/ stress/ money”), I would tell myself to never forget the original meaning of the word restaurateur: “he who infuses physical or moral vigor by attenuating or eliminating weakness, fatigue, and discomfort.” Opening a restaurant is incredibly hard work – much harder than I could have ever imagined. But it’s exciting and thrilling at the same time. I should also probably tell both my younger and current self to enjoy the stories of all the people I meet on a daily basis, and have fun with it!

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