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Family Style Interviewby Pattye Grippo    

This is an interview with Melissa and Joey Maggiore on August 23, 2010 about the show Family Style. Melissa and Joey

Question:
Your family has been in the restaurant business for quite a long time. Did you both always want to go into that business or did you have other ideas?

Joey Maggiore:
Well we had other ideas growing up, but we were force-fed cake stands and knives and we were told we had to do it ??? no I'm kidding. It's something that, when you grow up in this business, it's a love, it's a passion, it's a life. So for us, it's not really a career, it's something that we live daily. I don't think that we would've done anything else. Melissa tried to become a journalist for a year, but that fell short and she went back to the restaurant business ???

Melissa Maggiore:
I didn't try. I went to school for journalism, but this business has always been my passion. Food, wine, service, the restaurant ??? it's what I know, it's in our blood. We say this all the time, it's as true today as it's been for years, we grew up in the restaurant. When other kids were playing and riding their bikes, we were in the restaurant. We were peeling onions, we were chopping carrots, we were with our parents in the restaurant.

Joey Maggiore:
That's because you were the step chef, I was cooking on the line. [laughs]

Question:
So it's like a legacy?

Melissa Maggiore:
It is a legacy, and something I see in our kids. Our kids play restaurant, my kids grew up playing restaurant.

Question:
For each episode that you've taped, how much time have you spent beforehand putting together a menu, testing recipes, filming and getting it all together?

Joey Maggiore:
Well we never stop. Daily we work on new menus and everything, but for this particular restaurant, it was about a year in the making prior to Food Network getting involved with this restaurant and airing it. We were working on menu concepts, trial and error, trying to find the right staff, design ??? Melissa really stepped in, and daily while I was doing the other operations of the restaurant, she was there everyday, changing different things, we basically ate every night together changing the menu items.

Melissa Maggiore:
Now we're paying for it ??? I gotta work out, because the camera adds ten pounds! When we were opening this restaurant, it took a year and a half from the time we signed the lease to the time we opened the doors, there really was no preparation for the show. The show is a reality show, fly on the wall, they're here everyday watching us live our lives. What you see on the show is really what goes on in our everyday life, and I don't know if you can get rid of that. It's a slice of our life.

Question:
Everyone has a guilty pleasure ??? that one food you eat when no one is around. What is yours?

Joey Maggiore:
I got so many. I guess mine would be a testata cake. We make a traditional, Sicilian cheesecake called testata ??? basically a cannoli filling in a cake. That's my guilty pleasure, every night I try to sneak one in. [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
I'm trying to think what mine would be ???

Joey Maggiore:
Yours is coffee, all day long. Coffee, coffee, coffee.

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah but that's not a guilty pleasure. You know what I do, and I try to sneak it, I shouldn't feel guilty about this, but cheese. I eat cheese ??? my chefs find me in the walk-in sometimes; I hide in the walk-in and I go through the cheese and eat all the gorgonzola and the blue cheese, and as soon as they walk in I take my hand away. I don't know why I feel guilty about it, I guess cheese isn't the most healthy thing in the world and I'll probably pay for it later, but gorgonzola and blue cheese are my guilty pleasure.

Question:
How do you get your kids to try new foods?

Joey Maggiore:
For me, growing up, in our restaurant we were always trying new foods. The kids, since they're at the restaurant, are always eating new foods. My kids at one years old were trying to chomp down on octopus and different things, just like Melissa's. I eat everything so we don't really have that problem, we don't have a picky eater yet. [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
I have a picky eater, and I think the answer is early exposure. Joey and I grew up in the restaurant, so we were exposed to these foods, so there wasn't anything different about them. I think kids tend to not eat things that are boring to them, but when you're exposed to them at such an early age, they're no longer foreign. My daughter has been eating everything, she has a really mature appetite for her age, she's twelve now, but has always eaten all sorts of things. My son is four, and let me tell you, restaurant or no restaurant, gourmet or no gourmet, I make my child macaroni and cheese sometimes, he eats peanut butter and jelly [laughs], and I'm telling you, he eats chicken fingers. And as you know, at the end of the day, you've got to put food down. I've had to swallow my pride and just realize that I've got an all-American kid, and he wants some of these things. I don't have the answer, but if you do find it, please call me back and let me know. [laughs]

Question:
What is like collaborating with your sibling? Are there boundaries that aren't really there because you're not working just with a professional colleague; do the lines get blurred? What are the challenges?

Melissa Maggiore:
There are no lines. That's the problem. [laughs]

Joey Maggiore:
Melissa needs to stay out of the restaurant and let me do what's right, but she doesn't listen, so that's the problem. [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, right; yeah, right.

Joey Maggiore:
But I don't think there's a problem. We work very well together, and obviously we have a competitive side ??? like I said, we're always trying to one-up each other, but it makes the experience better. I don't think there are boundaries; I think we work together pretty well.

Melissa Maggiore:
I think that it actually becomes an issue at times, especially when we're not only working with each other. There are other people around, and obviously when you're running a business, everyone has to have a job description and do it. And if Joey and I were just business colleagues, there would be a line. He wouldn't be able to talk to me that way sometimes, or what I said would have more relevance; but because he's my brother, I'm running the front and if I run to the back, if he's upset, he'll just tell me off or he won't do it ??? obviously he couldn't do that if I were just managing the restaurant and not related to him. Sometimes the lines are blurry ???

Joey Maggiore:
Sometimes your mouth gets in the way. Is that what you were going to say? [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, right. Your mouth is always in the way. But I also think that times it makes it interesting or uncomfortable for some of the people who are working with us, because they still have to stay within those realms of professional conduct, and sometimes Joey and I overstep. I'm kind of nervous to see the show and episodes, because I'm sure we've overstepped, and we're going to think, Oh my God, we shouldn't have acted this way! [laughs]

Question:
What is the best or worst prank Joey has ever pulled? Best or worst, depending on what side you're on.

Melissa Maggiore:
The worst prank Joey's ever pulled? In my life, and this one's just downright mean. I was at home one day, and my brother came over, and he had these lottery tickets --

Joey Maggiore:
[hysterical laughter]

Melissa Maggiore:
and he said to me, Oh I got these lottery tickets. So I was like, Why is he giving me a lottery ticket? And he says, You never know Melissa, we might win. Well let me just preface this by saying that I was going through some problems ??? I just got divorced, picking up pieces of my life, could've used the extra money ??? and I scratched the ticket and I couldn't believe it! I had to rub my eyes a couple times. It looked like I won $100,00 or something. And I started crying, I was so excited. And I looked at Joey ??? it was a fake lottery ticket. I've never been so mad in my life.

Joey Maggiore:
[still laughing] Yeah, you know, we had a few laughs.

Melissa Maggiore:
And in terms of pranks on the show, take your pick. Joey made me eat raw cow tongue, he made me eat this disgusting crockpot thing, so believe me, every day is like torture.

Joey Maggiore:
No, the funniest one was the funnel trick. You've got to tell her about the funnel trick.

Melissa Maggiore:
Oh, the funnel ??? I've tried to forget that.

Joey Maggiore:
So there's this trick in the restaurant, where I told her, Look, if you can grab a quarter and put it on your head, tilt your head back with a funnel in your pants, if you tilt your head down and get the quarter in the funnel, you win ten bucks. Well while they tilt their head back and shut their eyes, you get a jug of water and pour it down the funnel, so it goes down their pants. We actually got that one on camera so it was pretty funny. [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, except that I was working that night and I had to go back out there with wet pants, like a wet crotch area. It was terrible.

Question:
What is your favorite Italian dish to make at home, for your family or when you guys are hanging out?

Joey Maggiore:
My favorite dish is called sugo, which is basically a Sunday pasta dish ??? braised short ribs, homemade meatballs, and you cook it all day long. It's something that the kids grow up on, for me it's a real tradition in our home.

Melissa Maggiore:
Every Sunday we try to teach our kids a new dish, my daughter and I cook a lot. I love sugo, but my go-to is really simple ??? aioli. I do it all the time ??? pasta, olive oil, garlic, a little red pepper. I cook really simple at home, with a lot of seafood. Any pasta with seafood is great for me.

Question:
How do you balance running a restaurant with taking care of children? Do you have any advice for someone in a similar situation?

Joey Maggiore:
Well for me I think it's a little easier than for Melissa because she is a single mom. I have a wife, who when I'm working all day long she is with the kids. I get to take the kids to school every morning, no matter what happens I make sure I take them to school and kiss them all goodbye. I try to pick them up right after school so that at least I get to have that time with them. And then obviously I have to work late hours, so then my wife is dedicated to give them love. Melissa let her speak because it's a little bit harder for her.

Melissa Maggiore:
You're going to let me speak? What happened?

Joey Maggiore:
Well, once in a while. [laughs]

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, for me it's a little bit different, I'm everyday learning how to do that more and more, it is very, very difficult. I used to feel guilty that I wasn't there all the time. But, I'm the sole provider for my children so I have to make sacrifices. From what I've learned, it's not the quantity, it's the quality of time. So, the times that I am with them is just for them - I turn off the phone and I'm just with my children. You know, I take them to school, I come to work, I pick them up, I make sure I pick them up from school. They come to the restaurant in between lunch and dinner, we do homework together we eat together and then I bring them to my mother's house. I'm very fortunate to have my mother here to help me. I just make sure that the times that I'm with them it's undivided, because there are a lot of parents who are home with their kids all day long but maybe don't give them the quality of time. So it's just really about keeping quality time versus quantity.

Question:
What is the craziest mishap you have encountered while trying to get this restaurant up and running?

Joey Maggiore:
The chairs. We ordered chairs for the restaurant and when we were taking them out of the box they sent us the wrong ones in the wrong color. Two days before the opening.

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah that's right, I think that probably is the worst thing that happened. Yeah, absolutely! [laughs] It was two days before the opening and we wound up literally just keeping them. We made some concessions for the tables and we ended up just keeping them when we opened because there really was no other choice in the matter. I think that was the biggest one, yeah.

Question:
Are there any signature dishes of Tommy Lee's that you could tell me about?

Joey Maggiore:
The signature dish over here I think is pretty short ribs and the most popular dish is the short ribs and the Palo wine with carrots and onions. We braise it for a couple of hours and serve it with some homemade spinach gnocchi which is delicious and it's our biggest seller. And besides that one I think, I don't know Melissa, what do you think is the biggest seller?

Melissa Maggiore:
I think in addition to that, because that is our biggest seller, I think all of our pizzas, we make fantastic pizzas here that you know you would get in Italy and they're delicious and then we have our osso bucco that is also one of our big sellers.

Question:
What was your favorite episode filming?

Joey Maggiore:
My favorite episode filming was the kid's birthday parties. I did a nice birthday party for my kids and Melissa's kids, our sons have a birthday in the same month, so I decided you know to do a nice party for her while she was at the restaurant. I decided to cook a whole lamb in the ground. I dug up Melissa's backyard and cooked a whole lamb.

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, he dug up my backyard, but by the way I don't own my house ??? I rent. So he dug up my rental home and didn't tell me. And there's still a hole there and it's still not fixed!

Question:
Are you doing anything special to celebrate the pilot episode on Thursday?

Joey Maggiore:
Yeah, we are doing it at both of our restaurants, we have our brother's restaurant in Del Mar, Tommy Lee's, and start the festivities there around six o'clock for a half an hour we're going to show one of the shows and then we are going to get into a nice limo bus with all our friends and family and go up to the Tommy Lee's where it was filmed and spend the night with friends family and whoever wants to join us. Nice appetizers, wine, champagne and just enjoy it.

Melissa Maggiore:
Yeah, it's very, very exciting and our customers are really part of our family, so to be able to be at the restaurant and celebrate with all of them and our friends and family ??? there's nothing better.

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