Franco Fazzuoli has had enough. After 45 years in the restaurant business, the chef-owner of Franco's Trattoria in Scottsdale is calling it quits. The last day of service at the 14-year-old, award-winning Italian restaurant is Saturday, April 14.
Shortly thereafter, the location will reopen as Gregory's Grill.
Fazzuoli finally decided that the business was too little glamour, and too little green.
"People have no idea what it takes to run a restaurant in Phoenix," he says. "I'm 59 years old, and I refuse to continue working 80 hours a week for no money."
Phoenix isn't a restaurant-friendly town, says Fazzuoli, who previously ran three very successful eateries in New York. The Valley is seasonal, meaning mind-numbing stress in the winter, and empty tables in the summer. For seven months, he would only be able to take Christmas Day off, but when the weather heated up, all he would do is pay overhead on a near-empty cafe.
"I haven't even been back to Italy in nine years. There's been no time, or money. I've only survived because I work like a dog, morning and night."
Phoenix diners also aren't sophisticated enough to support Fazzuoli's high-end style of cooking, he thinks. "They don't know the difference between [Franco's] and a chain," he laments, adding that he recently lost a party of seven who were upset that he didn't have spaghetti and meatballs on his menu. Franco's is known for its genteel, authentic northern Italian cuisine.
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Fazzuoli's future? He may go back to New York and possibly open a restaurant there. "You folks just don't know," he sighs. "I made it big in New York. Even with so many restaurants there, I was busy all the time and people appreciated my food."
Gregory's chef-owner Gregory Casale, meanwhile, jumped at the opportunity to move out of his digs at Scottsdale and McDowell roads. He had been trying for two years to find a better place, saying that sophisticated diners didn't want to come to this unfashionable strip mall location across the street from the Los Arcos ruins. Franco's, in the Village at Hayden, Via de Ventura and Hayden, is exceedingly more upscale.
"We were at McDowell for four and a half years," says Casale. "We just needed more bang." At least a setting more appropriate for his restaurant's innovative "New World" cuisine, featuring dishes like Indian spice-rubbed Colorado rack of lamb, hazelnut-dusted sweetbreads and five-spice crispy quail.
Luckily, too, for Casale, he's married. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have gotten Franco's, Fazzuoli says. "He's got his wife to work with him, so he'll do very well here. I wouldn't have sold to him otherwise. That's the only way this business can be done."