Ever thought about starting your own restaurant? Who hasn’t? Well, not Jani, but John has. We have Mike Maroni on the show to tell us his restaurant story. Mike has been in the restaurant business for more than 20 years. His unique ideas provided some tough times – he said he cried himself to sleep for the first year. Eventually, things caught on and now his restaurant in Long Island is packing them in, despite having no set menu. These are the unorthodox ideas we can expect from this guy. Come have a listen or read the transcript below. And if you’ve never heard of “naked sushi”, Jani will enlighten you.
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John: Hey everybody welcome back to the John and Jani Show, your back for our 7th episode, I’m your host John Khoury author of the book Quanology: Evolution & You and with me as always is Jani Moon from New York City.
Jani: Media coach making you a star in your life and in the media and currently single.
John: (Laughing) currently single guys, this show is about giving Jani a man (Jani Laughing) and also about teaching, it’s educating I think we’re trying to educate and entertainment them as well and today we’re going to explore a nice little subject something that’s always been on my mind. I think allot of people not Jani of course have thought about opening up a restaurant, it’s like this crazy secret world that goes on, even though we go to restaurants, it’s such a mystery to me. so how did people start restaurants if you want to start a restaurant and we’ve got a special guest with us today, today we’ve got Mike Maroni from Maroni Cuisine. (Audience Clapping) Straight out of Long Island, here he is with us, we’re going to bring him on right now and have him talk to us about how to start a restaurant and talk to us about his meatballs.
Jani: His famous meatballs.
John: Yes some big big meatballs, Mike. (Audience Clapping) Mike can you hear us, can we hear you more importantly.
Jani: Do you have to unmute him, how does this work?
John: Mike do you hear us?
Mike: HEY hello everybody, I’m back.
Mike: I can cook but I can’t figure out this fucking computer.
John: That’s what people say, the best (Inaudible 0:02:36.1) is not very technical.
Mike: No I’m not, I can get technical with a chicken cutlet, I can get technical with a super stock, but these freaking buttons I can’t handle it.
John: It’s too much.
Jani: You go through it the Goteam and your levelled wife is always there to save the day.
John: Mike when did this all start, did you not want to spend as much time with your wife and kids so you decided it’s time to start a restaurant?
Mike: That’s a good question.
John: I don’t understand how you even have 5 minutes to do this show.
Mike: I knew that I was going to be a chef at a very young age, when I was like 5. I’m completely self taught and I opened up my first professional restaurant, regular alacart restaurant with menus and lime list and all that stuff, was 20 years ago, when I was 35 and the only reason why I did it is because I met my wife and I knew between me knowing the back of of the house and her knowing the front that we could figure this thing.
Jani: That sounds like a sex position.
John: What was happening at 5 years old that you saw I’m going to be a chef?
Mike: What’s that?
John: What were you doing at 5 years old that made you want to be a chef then?
Mike: I just knew, I had a grandmother that was a great cook, my dad was a great cook, I loved to cook, I was always in the kitchen with my hands and everything and I knew that was what I was going to do, I knew it.
John: Are you Italian?
Jani: Sorry babes, for us to see you, if you don’t mind looking at our eyes, it just helps so that we can see that beautiful face of yours.
Mike: Can you see me yet?
Jani: Yeah that’s much better, if you can look into our eyes that’s good, thank you so much, yeahh.
John: Is that Italian culture or is that something in your family?
Mike: No; my mother was a lousy cook, my grandmother was from the mountain of Naples, they plucked her off a fucking mountain in like 1920 and then she immigrated over here and she just happen to be a really good cook and there was nothing fancy, she picked the Dandy Lions and the Gegorias from in between the side walks and all my friends thought we were poor and she picked the Dandelions out of the front lawn with her big fucking Sears and Robux boots that had 10,000 ilots on it, she had her hair cropped back and my friends use to think we were poor, there were 5 of us and she would take these dandelions and these weeds and she’d put alittle bit of little button posture and chicken broth and cook it like that. She cooked the wheat’s, oh yeah. Hey it’s legal everybody is smoking really smoking weed.
John: I just paid my sister in law 2 Euros to eat a dandelion because I thought that was the weirdest thing but apparently…
Jani: That’s not, you can eat them, there’s like Dandelion Flower Remedies, they’re healthy for you.
John: But that’s the kind of eccentric, if you allow me to call it that, interesting and orthodox things that were going on in the kitchen there then?
Mike: My grandmother I guess because she wasn’t educated, she obviously didn’t go to school or anything like that so she was brought up in a very small town in Italy and she just knew how to cook, she was a typical person who was self sustainable, she cooked, knew how to sew, knew how to raise a family, tend to the goats, chickens, pigs and all that crap, that’s where it was.
Jani: Who was your inspiration?
Mike: My grandma was my inspiration, my dad was a frugal cook, there was 5 of us kids growing up in this small town in Long Island called Locus Valley, a lot of people associate Locus Valley with a lot of money but we were fucking poor, we literally didn’t have any money but those 5 kids. My dad was pretty resourceful, he could pretty much open up the refrigerator and before you knew it, there was something wickedly good on the table and don’t ask where it came from, or how it got there, he had that talent just like my grandmother had the talent, it’s like I got the talent and my other 4 brothers and sisters don’t have that talent, it’s not there.
John: Something happened with you, you were hooked up to that whole experience, you thought it as cool and you knew you could make a living out of this?
Mike: Yeah I knew I could probably make a living, I went to high school and there was a little program to go to Boseas and I did that and didn’t do very well in that school… because I never follow rules ever, I still don’t today and I just cant, it’s not like I’m some bratty pain in the ass, I just can’t fucking follow a rule because they don’t really make sense.
John: But that’s your little recipe too, that’s the recipe for your career.
Jani: That’s what makes you unique.
Mike: The only rules that there really are is in baking.
John: I’m interested with baking.
Mike: You can’t brake the rules in baking, baking is all about weights measured, yeast, growths, bacteria and all that stuff. One day when I get a little older I’ll play with baking but for now I’ve got to cook.
John: So fast forward how many years? 30 you said?
Mike: More than 30 years, married with my with for 20 years and yeah we’ve been pretty successful, we’ve really evolved, our first restaurant we opened up 20 years ago and it”s pretty cool, we have a really unique restaurant and if you really took a look at my motto on how to run a restaurant if there’s ever a book written on how to run a restaurant the way that my wife and I do it is completely off the map, it doesn’t make any sense, it’s turned everything on it’s head.
John: So what are elements of that, what rules are you breaking there, what’s so unconventional?
Mike: There’s no menu, no wine list, nothing tangible for you to hold.
John: But you have wine.
Mike: What’s that?
John: You have wine, so how do people know what kind of wine?
Mike: We verbally talk to you, we sit you down and everybody knows, Maroni’s been there for 15 years, so 98% of the people coming in to eat already have been there or heard everything, they know what they’re getting themselves into so it’s pretty cut and dry when they come in there, they’re excited to be there, they’re pumped to be there, our weight staff is awesome, and you come in sit down and we just talk to you and everybody’s kinda like pretty excited, it’s kinda like they just went into an amusement park and they just got into that cool place and they’re like shit, what the fuck are we drinking, what are we eating, what’s going on.
John: And you’re recommending things?
Mike: Who’s a pain in the ass, who’s this, who’s that.
Jani: It’s all a surprise, you go in and everything’s a surprise.
John: Can you take me back to starting the restaurant because I mentioned in the intro that it’s crossed my mind, I like love sushi and all these kinds of things, wouldn’t it be nice to get more sushi by having a restaurant which is a stupid idea but people thought about it, I have another idea for a restaurant right now, I think it would be fun but it seems like this insurmountable mountain to me because it sounds like a huge investment front and cross your fingers that the people show up.
Mike: The old joke, the old saying in the restaurant business is, the easiest way to make a million dollars in a restaurant business is start with two, in other words you’re going to lose. To make it in this business, first and foremost it really has to be deep in you like you’ve got to really want to do it and you better know how to cook and you better really love what you do and people with slight attitudes or snottiness or anything like that basically you’ve got to be a pretty fucking twisted person to open up a restaurant, there’s got to be something fucking wrong with you.
John: Mentally and unstable, that’s the start.
Mike: If you’re going into the restaurant business to make money, like if that’s what you’re thinking about, that’s at the end of you tunnel and you’re like wow how much money can make, don’t even attempt it because there’s so many obstacles in this business. You could have the greatest food in the world, you could be one of the greatest chefs in the country or on the globe but if you don’t have the right people in place, greeting your guests, seating your guests, taking care of your guests, if your dishwashers all your ducks have to be in row.
Jani: Mike did you ever want to quit?
John: That’s a good question.
Mike: When I first opened up this restaurant 15 years ago, I literally cried myself to sleep for 1 year because it was a whole new concept and I had to take fucking pills to get to sleep, because noone understood it, noone got it, I had people get up and walk out and look at me like what the fuck are you kidding me, there’s no menu, there’s no line list, there’s nothing. I’d hand them a piece of paper and it would say “Dinner $80”, they’d be like what, some people got it and some didn’t and I really at one point was ready to fucking give up and say fuck it, it didn’t work but it did, it worked, I stuck it out, I’m not a quitter, I never quit even for one minute but I doubted myself and I rarely doubt myself.
John: But you thought, I must be an idiot, this is not working out right?
Mike: Yeah and people some got it while some didn’t but now 15 years later, it’s a tremendous success and people love it.
Jani: Your famous for your meatballs right, is that the most famous…?
Mike: Well; we became famous for our meatballs with a TV episode of Bobby Flay, I beat Bobby Flay in a showdown.
John: Who’s Bobby Flay?
Mike: Bobby Flay is a food network chef and he had a couple of TV shows, he’s been on TV for about 20 years and he had a show where he would go around and like if you made the fucking cronut he would try to beat you by making, you know the guy that invented the cronut, he’ll do a cronut and I’ll do meatballs and we were famous with them because we served them in a pot hot to go home and all that crap and that’s a whole other thing. Everybody thought that I lost my noodles when I opened up Macaroni’s to sell pots of spaghetti and meatballs, the fuck is this guy doing, because my wife and I had a very successful international type cuisine restaurant 20 years ago, very successful, very popular, very highly rated and then I moved to the next county to open up this little store with o menu and pots of ,meatballs to take home and people just had a real rough time with it.
John: But you think up these ideas and you say it herself, this is going to work and you just try it and it doesn’t work for a long time and all of a sudden it does work, are you getting feedback along the way and thinking like… do they like it?
Mike: People would come in, like I got…
John: Hello? there goes his internet connection… Mike is gone.
Jani: Maybe we’ll catch him.
John: We’ll just finish it for him, no he’ll be back, I’m sure right.
Jani: Well, I have to tell you fascinating (Laughing) The tips that we already know that we can tell you, (our audience) determination.
John: Determination, I’m impressed that we’ve already got him off the show. Determination and what else?
Jani: Determination and honestly too, it sounds like coming up with this niche idea, it’s so organic because it doesn’t seem like a niche for the sake of being niche, it’s like he took this idea from his grandmother as part of his culture and history and family and it was all that he knew to do, so it made sense but it was so unique to us his culture and family and that’s what made it so special.
John: That he has the faith that others are going to enjoy this as well.
Jani: Yeah, I’m just going to send him one more link to see if we can get him back for sure, but what did you think?
John: He did not convince me to start a restaurant that’s for sure.
Jani: Maybe you’re not suppose to be convinced, I don’t think everybody should start a restaurant, it’s freaking hard work, it’s a lot of hard work.
John: It’s a ton of hard work.
Jani: It’s a lot of hard work and It just sounds like… it’s very demanding time wise, all kinds of things, I don’t think your wife would want you to start your own restaurant.
John: I think he’s coming back, I was going to start an upscale version of Hooters called Tatas (Laughing)
Jani: I think that’s a really bad idea, horrible idea, “Tatas”?
John: I’m really determined to hire the right people if you know what I mean.
Jani: Okay a whole other side of you we’re all getting to see, this is the real John Corey. Will the real John Corey stand up, Tatas (Laughing)
John: Welcome to Tatas everyone
Jani: Maybe the new name of our show Tatas, my not have Mike, Mike’s internet is unfortunately…
John: It’s gone I think
Jani: This is where you CAN find Mike, you can go to his restaurant on Long Island called Maroni’s.
John: It’s MaroniCuisine.com, Maroni like M-a-r-o-n-i Cusine.com.
Jani: Very hard to get a reservation, you have to call in advance and can’t “F” around with the reservation, people are on a long waiting list to get into this restaurant.
Jani: Yeah, next time you and your family come to visit the states.
John: I’m definitely going when we go up to Long Island.
Jani: You’re going to have to go to Maroni’s Restaurant and see what it’s like.
Jani: This is his wife hold on (Laughing)
John: Jani is going to take the phone right now, I’m going to just monologue for a minute (Laughing)
(Jani on Phone)
Jani: No worries, don’t even worry about it, please just tell him we’ll have to have him back on the show, wonderful job and we appreciate both of you.
John: He can watch this later.
Jani: This is the way technology is.
John: If this is only meatballs.
Jani: Hold on, I want you to hear something, this is Marie his wife, we’re doing this for Mike.
John: Thank you for coming on the show Mike Maroni and thank you visitors for watching and sorry this guy… hopefully you have a better idea about how to setup your restaurant.
Jani: We’ll talk to you in alittle bit, bye.
John: We’ll talk to everybody in alittle bit, we’re going to get…
Jani: Before we go, do you think that it’s important that people know that, doing what Mike did took a lot of guts,a anybody that does a restaurant, it takes a lot of guts, it takes a lot of determination, it takes a lot of work, making mistakes and it takes a lot of complete and utter determination.
John: It feels like he had no other choice in this, I’m so fascinated by people who know at a young age what they want to do and he’s 5 years old and he knows this and that’s like okay your whole life is dedicated to that and so it’s not even a question however hard it’s going to be, he just does it and that’s an interesting case study.
Jani: That is cool because even as an adult how many careers have we all gone through like to know what your purpose is.
John: I’m telling you I want to setup a restaurant but I really don’t but I’m just saying you know what I mean, that’s just how I fluctuate but he didn’t have that problem and that’s where the determination is.
Jani: You wouldn’t have meatballs so what would be your famous thing?
John: I have a concept restaurant and it’s nothing about food because I’m not like a foodie, I just love sushi, I love to eat it all the time.
Jani: I know what it is, naked sushi, come on that’s how it’s been done, that’s a concept, seriously.
John: I don’t know about naked sushi, what’s naked sushi?
Jani: You said you had an idea fora sushi restaurant, it’s more about the concept.
John: I always thought I loved sushi allot, so I’d love to setup a sushi restaurant, that’s a nice thing.
Jani: I try to do like…
John: It’s always going to be for cheap sushi, which is a stupid idea, that’s my point, I just want to get cheap sushi because I can just buy it, I can just get sushi whenever I want because I have 2 chefs working for me constantly.
Jani: Naked, yeah
John: Nobody’s naked here Jani
Jani: Naked Sushi, I did it once.
John: What is naked sushi?
Jani: Where you lay naked and put sushi on you, love it.
Jani: For my friends birthday years ago in my younger days and my body looked a lot better.
John: Send me some pictures, send us all some pictures, I’ve never heard of such a thing.
Jani: Oh my God it’s very popular in LA and they’ve got some restaurants in New York, it’s like very chique like you eat the piece of sushi of somebody.
John: Oh my God
Jani: It would make like really of (Inaudible 0:23:24.9) comments on the side because it’s like that…
John: I did this once, this show has been a success despite Mike’s technical difficulties.
Jani: Only because of Mike
John: (Inaudible 0:23:40.1) Naked sushi
Jani: Do you think that will help me get a boyfriend maybe.
John: No it will help you get laid but it won’t help you get a boyfriend (Laughing)
Jani: (Laughing) And with that we’ve got to go.
John: Thanks for joining us everybody and sorry for the technical difficulties, next week we’ll be back again I’m sure. MikeMaroniCuisine.com
Jani: Check out his meat balls.
John: Check out his meat balls.