When Job becomes Family


Pappagallo’s a Satellite Beach restaurant built as a job that has grown into a family


Back in 1990 Pappagallo’s (Indian Harbour Beach) was born from a need for me to support my small family, I figured that if I worked my butt off and offered the highest quality food made fresh daily that the small restaurant would grow into something that would allow us to raise a family and have a decent life, you know just the basic American dream.

The first location for Pappagallo’s restaurant was actually in Indian Harbor Beach just a few miles from our current spot. The first few years were tough but rewarding, we had very limited space for storage so frequent deliveries of product were necessary and produce was sometimes brought in twice a day, I mean we had NO place to store things.

It was a real issue sometimes and we did sell out of things because we just couldn’t prep enough at one time to make it through the day, the upside of that problem was that everything was literally as fresh as it possibly could be.

After a few months of officially being in to the restaurant business we had added a few part time employees and 2 grew to 3, 3 grew to 5 and our first “Pappa’s” family had begun to take form in Indian Harbour Beach.

I wish I could say I planned on this family dynamic as some genius business plan that I orchestrated to increase productivity and profits but I’m a pizza guy not a genius.

When I broke off to open my own restaurant closer to my home in Satellite Beach the only way I knew how to run a restaurant was being like a family, after all I had worked with my parents and brother and sister for those early years.

I knew nothing about labor costs, how much to markup cost of food sold, or mostly anything else about the numbers end of this business.

Pappagallo’s in Indian Harbour Beach was born and best quality we could get for the lowest price we could set and if at the end of the months the bills were paid and we had any money left over we must be doing ok.

The first few years this system worked because I worked….ALOT!

Let me be clear I love what I do and if there’s nothing going on outside of work, we’ll then I just as well be at work then sitting around doing nothing.

I believe the family dynamic evolved because I was there so much and we did all blend as a family, we worked together we played together and we stayed together as a team, I had many people over the years that we’re technically overqualified for the job but they were having too much fun at work to actually quit, back then when someone did leave I took it very personal, it was like losing a family member.

Over the years I have come to accept that everyone will leave one day that’s just part of the deal. I’m not hurt or angry when they do leave anymore and my favorite part of job today is when team members from years past come by to visit when they come through town.

Pappagallo’s Indian Harbour Beach began when I was 24 and I was only a few years older than most of the staff members of those days, sometimes it was hard for them to take direction from someone just a few years older than themselves. Fast forward almost 30 years and a few things have changed ,

1) I’ve gotten older and have a lot more grey in my hair

2) I used to be viewed as sort of a big brother but these days I’m more like a father, a “Papa” of Pappagallo’s

There’s more separation in the age of our team and myself and in a lot of ways that makes me life easier, I have had the distinct pleasure of watching many kids grow up during these years and I feel honored that I got to be part of their youth.

It may seem a little corny in this day and age to actually care about people but I really do care about my staff on a personal level, I mean you spend 70-90 hours a week at the same job with the same people and you grow as close if not closer than an actual family.

I get notes quite often from past crew members, they move on they move away but for the ones that stayed around a while when they were part of the crew, we’ll they become family.

Pappagallo’s (Indian Harbour Beach, Indialantic and Satellite Beach) family continues to grow, I have no idea how many of us there are but most have a story that makes me never forget them, these stories are my real paycheck ,my treasured memories of the people I have spent my adult life working with and watching them go on to bigger and better things as they entered the “real” world.

Every kitchen member is a brother or sister to me if they stay here long enough to understand what we’re really about, to some people it’s just a part time job and believe me I’m perfectly fine with that. Some team members seem to grow into more of a place in my heart than just a server cook or delivery driver, these kids are like my extended family.

Pappagallo’s is a restaurant based in Satellite Beach but its roots stretch to California, Chicago, New York and we have even have a former family living in Japan, I wonder is sushi and pizza have ever been combined, sorry that’s another topic.

The biggest advantage of social media and in my humble opinion the only benefit is that it allows me to keep up with my “kids” wherever they go.

It’s been almost 30 years now since Pappagallo’s opened in Indian Harbour Beach and on any given day the 17 year old kid that worked with me in the early years walks in as a 40 year old man who is married with kids but still calls Pappagallo’s the best job he ever had.

I’m a lucky man who jokes about getting old but never remembers how old I am, that’s not Alzheimer’s sneaking up on me, it’s just I don’t feel like this much time has gone by.

We have had 3 second generation team members so far that have joined us in the current location in Satellite Beach, with the promise that more are reaching the age that they may eventually come in one day and apply for the same first job their mom or dad had when they were in high school. I started this restaurant to make a living but it has really turned into a great way to allow me to work alongside the young adults in our area, I believe that being around these young adults has kept me young at heart

Sometimes I do have to step back and take a deep breath when someone makes a so called rookie mistake, I remind myself that I have been here 30 years but they just started, I have a running joke when someone tries to pass a lame, “dog ate my homework” type of excuse as to why they may be late or some other job related excuse, my response is scripted and lighthearted but I explain that ,” that lame excuse didn’t work in the last century and it ain’t holding water in this century.”

We all laugh a little but they get the point.

Continued next blog….😄