From Eatery to Lasagneria: Marcella’s Story
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Above: Marcella’s Lasagneria staff members practice safety first, while still serving up great food.
You’ve heard of a pizzeria, but have you ever heard of a lasagneria? Continuing the family tradition, Gianfranco Di Sciullo runs Marcella’s Lasagneria with joy and dedication. At the Italian family-run eatery, there’s not an emphasis on “now, now, now,” but instead, an old school and calm way of doing things. The result is that Gianfranco and his staff can focus on their ingredients and concentrate on the finer details.
Gianfranco’s father came to San Francisco from Abruzzo, Italy in 1981. Shortly after, his father and his mother married and were in a position to start a business in the late 80s.
“With my father, the shop was called Massimo’s European Catering and Eatery. The catering got so busy they had to close the cafe in the early 90s,” describes Gianfranco. Growing up going to all the catering events, helping plan and set up, Gianfranco describes his childhood as surrounded by food. The restaurant to him was like one big family.
However, when the 2008 recession hit, Gianfranco’s family was in a rough spot and forced to reevaluate the eatery. After Gianfranco returned from college that year, he stepped in, took over the business, and came up with a fresh idea – a lasagneria!
“My father told me to do whatever I wanted to do in my life but never follow him into the kitchen. Here I am! I didn’t listen too well, but it’s been a great path, and I have no regrets,” exclaims Gianfranco.
East of Rome, Italy, Gianfranco’s family is from Abruzzo, a region rich with wine and agriculture. What makes the region even more special is its extreme proximity to both the mountainous snowy regions and the beach. And the Di Sciullo family’s familiarity with fresh seafood and produce has paid off at Marcella’s.
“Take whatever you know about Italian food and throw it out the window,” says Gianfranco. “There’s no spaghetti and meatballs here!”
Gianfranco aims to give his customers an authentic and new taste of Italy. This is done with passion, of course! Before COVID-19 hit San Francisco, Gianfranco arrived at the restaurant between 4:30 to 5 am, where he made everything from scratch.
The lasagneria specializes in seven artisanal lasagnas, ranging from a traditional Bolognese lasagna to a roasted Butternut squash lasagna.
Posted on their Facebook page, Marcella’s daily specials are usually gone by the end of the day as well. “Last week I made a ragù of sweet bell peppers, not on the menu. People come to us for a variety of things,” states Gianfranco.
Another thing Marcella’s Lasagneria prides itself on is making customers feel like they’re family. Over the years, the Di Sciullo family has made it a point to make their restaurant feel like a home.
Gianfranco has been able to keep and support his staff through the coronavirus pandemic. However, Marcella’s Lasagneria had to adjust its business model.
“Before COVID-19 we focused on catering in the Bay Area. So, we’ve had to adjust to nothing like we used to do. We’re operating at 20-25%, but we’ve kept up a steady to-go and outdoor dining business,” says Gianfranco. “We’re doing the best we can.”
Amid the ever-changing situation, the community continues to support Marcella’s. The restaurant has been able to situate themselves in the community, and their reputation for Italian comfort food has certainly helped them out as well.
Everything from protocols to global news is changing daily. Nevertheless, Gianfranco’s main goal remains steady: to help his staff and family get through these times.
“All I know for sure is that we have to get through this together.”
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