Growing up in Grumento Nova, Italy, Ralph Fruguglietti learned the ropes of authentic Italian culinary tradition from his mother. She did things “Nonni’s way” – never compromising quality over price. Just as his mother never cut corners in order to save a dime, Ralph took on the same mindset when opening Frugatti’s in 1990.
“For me it was an easy decision to go with quality rather than price since I had watched my mom use high quality ingredients my whole life,” said Ralph. “I also worked in sales with IBM right out of college and realized how much more loyal customers are when they buy quality rather than price. The price guy is just chasing coupons.”
Through Jordano’s, Ralph sources tomatoes from the Cortopassi family; one of the most expensive but best tomato products on the market. He also imported in an authentic wood-burning oven from Milan and serves only Certified Angus Beef brands on his menu.
Keeping things in the family, Ralph’s wife and children also work alongside him – it’s this family dynamic that he believes helps set Frugatti’s apart from the more “corporate Italian giants of the world.”
“There is always a family member in the restaurant with exception to Sunday nights,” he says. “That’s when we have family night at my house and everyone is there. Otherwise, our patrons will always see a family member working at Frugatti’s.”
Although a large portion of their menu items stay true to their Italian roots, they do offer an extensive selection of nontraditional items like Filet Tip Caesar Salad, Thai Chicken Salad and Garlic Chicken Wraps. Ralph made the decision to branch out in order to offer a wider variety to accommodate different palates – especially during the popular “lunch rush” – and he has seen great success with their large beef and seafood offerings, too.
About 10 years ago, Ralph (a competitive discus thrower) began developing a personal ‘side menu’ that would allow him to eat off his own menu. He wanted to create a menu that would provide him with the perfect combination of calories, carbs, protein, and fat to sustain him while competing in or training for big sporting events. Of course, the offerings are also low in calories, making them perfect for someone trying to lose weight or just eat healthy.
After a while, his customers caught on to his special side menu and, after some customer testing, Ralph decided to add the special items onto his restaurant’s main menu. “It’s a great way for us to offer our guests a healthier alternative to the options on our menu and has become quite popular,” said Ralph.
Another contributing factor to the success of Frugatti’s is their amazing, knowledgeable staff. Due to their close proximity to a major university, Ralph says that although most of his employees are students, they stay between four and seven years (and some longer than that). In Frugatti’s management and prep area, he has employees who have been with him for 20+ years – one of which is his son, Anthony, who serves as their catering manager. Having long-term employees is a true testament to a company’s structure, of which Ralph points back to their core family values.
With Anthony at the helm of their catering business, catering now accounts for about 20 percent of their overall business and has steadily increased by their participation in more bridal shows and events where they’re able to showcase their extensive services. Frugatti’s largest catering event took place this past December, where they catered to 2,100 people. In fact, their catering business has grown so steadily that five years ago they built two side restaurant outlets in a large citrus packing plant offering the plant’s employees fresh, healthy food – all cooked to order.
Although Ralph attracts most of his business from word of mouth and happy customer referrals, he remains adamant about constantly adding new ways to reach his current and potential customer base. “We leave no rock unturned so to speak,” he said. “That’s why we do Facebook, Twitter, eClub (e-newsletter), in-store promotions, and direct mail pieces to engage with our audience. We also personally respond to each and every Yelp review – good or bad.”
Circling back to Ralph’s motto of quality over price, he points out that a great asset to their ongoing success is his close relationship with Jordano’s Account Executive, Mike Ward. “Mike is fantastic,” Ralph points out. “He actually listens to the customer and knows I am driven by quality not price, so we won’t even discuss price until we have determined whether a product is a good fit for our company. There are too many sales people out there that think price is the only lead into a sale…don’t get me wrong, I always expect a fair price, but I’m also not expecting a Mercedes at a VW price.”
The fact that Jordano’s is a family-owned, independent foodservice distributor also bodes well with Ralph. “Jordano’s is a lot like us – they compete against the big guys with a unique smallness and respect that I can relate to, and I look forward to our continued partnership.”
For more information about Frugatti’s Italian Restaurant & Catering, visit www.frugattis.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter.