GREENSBORO — It’s hard to improve on the wisdom of an Italian woman — especially when it comes to cooking. And to his credit, Francesco Errichiello, co-owner of Positano Italian Family Restaurant, has never tried.
When Errichiello opened the Southern Italian restaurant with his brother-in-law, Mario Pugliese, in December 2000, the men filled their menu with the treasured recipes of their mothers, grandmothers and wives. Fresh fish, hearty soups, homemade lasagnas and rich sauces beckon customers to retreat from daily life and tuck into a home-cooked meal. Customers are served the same meals Errichiello ate growing up in the Italian village of Monte di Procida.
“Whatever we do for the family, we do for the customer,” Errichiello says. And who better to supervise the fare than a chef trained in the kitchens of Southern Italy? Since opening day, Giuseppe Tiano, one of Errichillo’s cousins, has peeled the tomatoes, roasted the chickens and stuffed the ravioli. Although he speaks little English, the 29-year-old Tiano says he was excited to make the move to Greensboro when he was offered the head chef position. “I really like American culture; I’m thankful for the opportunity,” he says after rushing in from the grocery store last week.
The restaurant is relatively quiet, but you can already smell dinner on the stove. For as long as Tiano can remember, cooking has been an important part of his life. As a child, cooking and eating were treasured family rituals, and Tiano started his training in his mother’s kitchen. As a young man, Tiano spent three years at a cooking school in Naples and later worked as a military chef, preparing meals for Italian commanding officers. Pleasing the palates of eager diners might not be as challenging as satisfying military officers, but Tiano says he loves his job. He and Errichiello both enjoy showing Greensboro diners some of their family’s traditional foods. One of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, braciola della nonna, is a longtime family favorite that has been passed down from generation to generation. The tender beef slices are stuffed with spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic and raisins, and then rolled. The meat is topped with fresh tomato sauce, and then baked for several hours before being served with penne pasta and red wine.
Positano’s basic menu stays the same year-round, but seasonal specials are prepared fresh daily, and an extensive wine menu offers guests choices of Italian, Australian, Californian and even Argentinean vintages to complement their meals. But a good Italian meal isn’t just about the food. You have to have the atmosphere to match. At Positano, pale orange and yellow walls conjure images of a Mediterranean seaside village. A terra cotta roof covers the kitchen entrance, and wine bottles and miniature lighthouses are all strategically placed to lull customers into a relaxed dining experience. Errichiello, whose family also owns Elizabeth’s Pizza, knows he can’t perfectly recreate an Italian dining experience, but he’s determined to make it as authentic as possible. He remembers waking up on Sunday mornings to the sound of bubbling sauce and the scent of baking bread.
After church the family sat down for lunch. More often than not, they didn’t leave the table for five or six hours. “It’s the food we grew up with every day — with Italians, that’s what we do,” Errichiello says. “Like if you don’t eat, we’re afraid you feel bad.”
Katie Reetz, Staff Writer