Brothers Nick & Jared Wayne own A Tavola (a Neo-Neapolitan pizzeria with two locations) and sister concept Taglio (a Roman-style pizzeria) in Cincinnati, along with a gelato shop (La Grassa).
A Tavola was featured in the April issue of Pizza Today. Here they sit down with Editor-in-Chief Jeremy White to further discuss their business.
Jeremy: So A Tavola started as a pop-up in a bakery. Did you ever consider launching your brand with a mobile unit?
Nick: It’s an expensive proposition. And Cincinnati is not the most food-truck friendly city.
Jared: It was damn-near as expensive to outfit a food truck as it would be to open a restaurant. And we could have a bar and a liquor license, so it was a no-brainer. And the City was going to give us money to open a restaurant, but not to open a food truck.
Nick: So, we actually did think about it briefly. I’m glad we didn’t go with that.
Jeremy: You describe your pizza as Neo-Neapolitan?
Jared: Yeah. We don’t follow the strict VPN guidelines.
Nick: I’ve found that many people are mistaken on what Neapolitan pizza actually is. To me it’s like a plate of water. If we were to actually serve true Neapolitan pizza — which we did consider at first — we’d get a lot of complaints that it’s too wet.
Jared: Yeah? I’m glad to hear that.
Nick: We have a Roman-style deck oven there. We have a wood-fired oven there as well just like we have at A Tavola, but we added the deck at Taglio so that we could do a thin-crust Roman. Our bread and butter is still the wood-fired pizza, though.
Jeremy: You have said that even though you don’t follow VPN guidelines, per se, you nonetheless embody the spirit of Neapolitan pizza. How so?
Nick: By using local ingredients. That’s how it’s done in Naples. They use what is nearby and accessible to them. What they can get fresh locally.
Jared: We work with a local company that helps us get fresh produce. There’s definitely a challenge when you work with local farms. They have to be capable of supplying the amount you need, and they have to understand that we need this product delivered every day. Sometimes it’s tough. When we first did it, I found myself driving an hour down into Kentucky and grabbing the stuff out of a refrigerator outside of a lady’s house and rushing it back to Cincinnati. It’s interesting to see our purveyors get hip to it. They’ve been the missing link that’s been integral to getting the produce to us. They’ve been able to work with the farmers to make sure we’re getting what we want. It’s been really cool to see them embracing that.
Jeremy: You also own a gelato shop here in Cincinnati as well. I know you serve the gelato in your restaurants — so why not display it where customers can see it? Gelato is visually striking and I can’t help but wonder if that would drive higher gelato sales in the restaurant. Thoughts?
Jared: The two biggest enemies of gelato are light and air. If you walk into a gelato shop and you can see the gelato — walk out. The guy I studied with told me that was the most important part. Keep it out of light and air.
Jeremy: So how does it sell?
Jared: The idea was to have a house-made gelato, and it’s gone over really well. It’s milk from an Ohio dairy. Cream from an Ohio dairy. All local ingredients. We get what we consider the best chocolate in the world. The servers upsell it. It’s all part of the story.
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