So long Stugazzi’s Restaurant

The last thing I ever want is for a local, small business in my town to fail.  But just because a business opens, doesn’t mean it will be successful, or deserve to succeed.  It is especially difficult for a restaurant.  One in four restaurants fail (or change ownership) in the first year.

Maine is place where even international chain restaurants like “Chili’s” can’t even stay open,  so a small, private restaurant has to have a lot of luck and something very special to offer the public if it’s ever going to make it.

I wrote a few reviews of Stugazzi’s Restaurant in Springvale, Maine.  I was harsh, and it spurned some lively debate.  That’s a nice word for “arguing”.  My reviews had hit a nerve.  I wasn’t being snarky.  I was being honest.  It it was awesome, I would have said so.

By all accounts, even by those who stood up for this restaurant, if anyone took an honest look at this restaurant, had to admit it was below average.   The truth hurts, I know.  Maybe one or two of their food items were good, but overall, a restaurant can’t call itself an “authentic” Italian restaurant and serve “chicken fingers”.  I don’t care if some people think that restaurants need to cater to the kids; Italian mothers in  “authentic” Italian kitchens in the Tuscan countryside don’t feed their kids chicken finger.  If you want to serve kids a crunchy, chicken appetizer, cut up an “authentic” chicken cutlet, pounded thinly, pan-fried in a very light and delicious coating, quick-cooked to perfection.  Top it with fresh buffalo mozzarella and a side of home-made marinara sauce, and you are good to go – without compromising your “authentic” principles.  It’s not more expensive for the chef to cook the real version than the insipid American concoction known  (which by the way started in American-Chinese restaurants) unless that restaurant is buying them frozen from a restaurant bulk frozen food supply house, in which case you’ve lost your way on the “authentic” road anyway so you should pack it in.

The food itself wasn’t the real problem with Stugazzi’s, it was the design of the customer experience.  Nothing worked.  From confusing self-seating, to “where the hell do I park”, to an uncomfortable entrance where the patrons landed right at the bar, to the rude staff, to the restaurant’s inability to properly pack take-out food —  the gaping holes in service were endless.  This isn’t rocket science.  And if there is one thing that Sanford/Springvale needs is more quality restaurant choices.  For god’s sake, the hot dog truck on Main Street is one of the better establishments.

It’s not my job to tell a restaurant owner how to run his restaurant.  But if the owners and their friends had read the clues (which could hardly be called clues since they were not inconspicuous in my writing; they were direct and on point) instead of firing off nasty emails and comments about my comments, then maybe their authentic Italian restaurant would still be open – and successful.  That would have been awesome!

I truly am sorry that a local business failed.  I really am.  It’s the last thing our little town needs. But I’m not sad to see a low-quality restaurant with poor service close up shop;  in my neighborhood or anywhere else.

Now, if the owners would like to re-open, with a new attitude, and a new outlook on how to serve quality food to the public, in a unique, satisfying, affordable, and authentic way, I’d be happy to help wherever I can.

The biggest problem with Stugazzi’s is that it appeared as if the owners never walked into their own establishment as a customer (incognito, or send in a mole with a hidden camera), as if they never had seen the place before, and experienced it from the customer’s perspective.  They needed to do that objectively.  Call in an order for pickup. Sit and order food, on several occasions on several different days and times.  Eat at the bar, and eat in the dining room.  Then they would have seen what most of us saw.  A successful restaurant is about its customers, not its owner’s ego.

I do wish the owners well, and I hope, maybe, they learned something that can take them on to their next endeavor, which will be successful.

2 thoughts on “So long Stugazzi’s Restaurant

  1. It would seem your rants have helped and well the restaraunt you hated, but ate at so much is now out of business! It Isn’t because they sucked , and the customer base was fed up with it! It was the employee base in the area! This is a key factor in all your complaints about the qaulity etc! I know alot about Stugazzi’s because, I like to call myself part of the core of the business at one time! Two years they went strong! Aside from your complaints! The owners are good american hard working people, who wanted to start Stugazzi’s to be able to spend more time with their family! These days the economy is tough not just on small businesses but also corporate businesses! Not sure what the owner’s and myself ever did to you personally! But I appologize that you hate Stugazzi’s and employees along with the Owners for what ever we did to upset you so much!

    I thought you would have moved on to bigger and better things, that was wishful thinking! Yes I expect you to attack my spelling and grammer, just like before!

    What I gather from reading your recent attack is that you also have no respect for the deceased because this Restaraunt would be considered dead however, you still must disrespect!

  2. I guess you proved my point. As with most other comments on my Stugazzi’s postings, I got yet another response from someone “connected” to this restaurant. If you really analyze what I wrote, I said nothing derogatory or mean. I gave objective opinion. In no way was my intention to hurt anyone’s feelings, in fact, I was serious about offering to help if they wanted to give it another go.

    I never hated Stugazzi’s, not did I eat there “a lot”. I just gave it a fair chance like I would any other eating establishment. It was Stugazzi’s impression on me that compelled me to write my first article.. It’s true: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Or a second impression, or a third.

    There’s one little secret I never shared about Stugazzi’s. After my first take-out order, which was a disaster, I talked to one of the staff. I don’t recall who it was but it was a man. I explained to him that my salad was ruined by the heat of the entree packed “under” it (heat and steam rises, you know). I also explained that by putting the salad on the bottom and the very hot entree on top, you could then vent the entree (instead of wrapping it mummy-style in layers of plastic wrap), thereby preventing the entree from becoming overcooked and soggy. I only had several steps to my front door where I immediately unpacked everything, through the salad in the fridge, and freed my steaming entree from the excessive heat. It didn’t work. I can’t imaging what the take-out food would look like if I had a 15 or 20 minute drive home first. I never shared this exchange because there was no way to do it while writing a review and have it taken for what it was.

    I was not belligerent or condescending. I was offering a suggestion to help. But my voice was not heard, and my opinion wasn’t considered. I mean, what could a lowly customer possibly have to offer a “pro”, right?. And THAT, my friend, is where this whole thing took a turn for the worse. I may be a nobody, but I’m not stupid, and I’ve been a “consumer” all my life. I have good feel for what makes a happy customer and what doesn’t. I often make suggestions to local business owners about all sorts of things. I not only do that for my benefit so that my experience in that establishment is fulfilling, but I believe that the business owner wants to hear what is working and what isn’t. Most of them want happy customers, wouldn’t you say? Customer feedback is the BEST way to understand how to get happy customers.

    Contrary to your opinion, Stugazzi’s isn’t something I need to “move on” from because I never “moved in”. I wrote one article that started a flurry of comments, some posted, some couldn’t be if I wanted my blog to remain at least PG13 rated. The comments and nasty emails I got were far worse than anything I wrote. So I found some humor in the contradiction and irony of it all. From what was received, I could tell that the writer had to be closely associated with the restaurant.

    If my opinion is so insignificant (which in the big scheme of things for you, it should be), then why do you follow or care about what I write about Stugazzi’s. In your opinion I’m the only one who ever had anything negative to say about the place. And I never stopped anyone from writing positive reviews and/or comments about Stugazzi’s. Fair is fair. I have my opinion and others have theirs. It’s called America. So I don’t need a lecture on what a “hard working American family is”. I come from, and still am, a working-class (make the working, lower-middle class) guy.

    Again, I gain nothing from having a local business fail. And I gain nothing from writing a bad review. As I said, if there is one thing this town needs, it’s successful small businesses, especially restaurants. Hell, I work for a small business and I know how tenuous that is. The truth is that I wanted this restaurant to succeed. How great would it be to have a restaurant in my neighborhood where I was a regular because the food was good, and consistent, and everyone knew my name. I tried the subtle approach to offer suggestions, like I would with anyone else, and that went nowhere. So I took a different approach – the bitter, honest truth. And that didn’t work either. Nothing worked. A business owner who thinks he or she knows it all, and doesn’t want to listen to constructive ideas from customers, is destined to fail. So we may as well get it over with as quickly as possible.

    If you still see what I write as an “attack”, then you still aren’t understanding the whole point.

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