Six Months at Mucci’s

Doughnut menu at Mucci's Italian // Photo by Madalyn Rowell

Doughnut menu at Mucci’s Italian // Photo by Madalyn Rowell

April 27

Two months later, Chris is still making the donuts.

“I’ve come full circle on that,” he laughs. “We’ve discovered that our donuts are just a little too technical. I’d have to hire a person that’s a trained chef—who not only has the skills, but who we’ll trust to show up here at 5am. It’s not reality.”

Traffic at Mucci’s has remained strong. Easter and spring break were smashed together this year, so everyone was gone during March. But some positive reviews from the food media has stoked demand. “Mecca [Bos, of City Pages] and Dara [Moskowitz Grumdahl, of Mpls.St.Paul magazine], I mean, it’s unbelievable,” Tim smiles. “How do we keep that up?”

Diners began arriving with the reviews printed, spread out before them like a menu. “It’s spooky because then they all order the same stuff, what gets mentioned in the article,” Chris says. “Last week everyone ordered lasagna, spaghetti, and tiramisu. Both of the articles talked heavily about the donuts. We sold out for the first time ever, and within about two hours.”

They’ve also considered the negatives: the one-star Yelp! reviews and the issues that arise on the floor. Some diners have said that Locatelli cheese makes the pizza taste too salty, or the Prosecco is too flat, or the small bowls make the salad hard to eat. Tim and Chris listen to all of it. They consider. They refine, if necessary. They move on.

Now Mucci’s has launched their frozen-food program—pizza and lasagna to go. Their reputation is now outside their four walls for the first time. “I’ve never done large-volume frozen stuff before,” Tim says. “What I can say is that it’s better than most. We’re on to something good, and we’re only going to get better at it… but I still worry about it. I’d like to do this for a living.”

Tim Niver and Chris Uhrich, owners of Mucci's Italian // Photo by Madalyn Rowell

Tim Niver and Chris Uhrich, owners of Mucci’s Italian // Photo by Madalyn Rowell

July 6

Open almost five months now, the focus at Mucci’s has recently shifted to the long-game: How do you keep up momentum for months and years, once the initial buzz dies; once the media attention wanes?

Tim’s strategy is to focus on the diner’s experience—continuing to foster those positive first impressions with the highest level of service. Chris has worked on adjusting the flow of the kitchen—creating efficiencies and shoring up his staff.

“We’re not hiring dishwashers anymore—I got sick of hiring ones that wouldn’t show up,” Chris says. “Now everyone in the kitchen takes one night a week washing dishes—me, my sous chef, everyone. I didn’t know how my team would react to that, and everyone was immediately on board.”

And just as cooks have become dishwashers at Mucci’s, the reverse has happened, too. Chris took an eager dishwasher off the pit and threw him on the line, relishing the opportunity to be in a mentorship position. That night, Chris manned the dish pit and witnessed the beginning of a culinary career—that dishwasher now routinely runs the pizza station.

This is how they expect it to go, in perpetuity. Every day, they’ll tighten the screws, so to speak. Keep the oven cleaner. Tweak the menu with the seasons. Keep the toilet in good shape so it doesn’t break on the busiest night of the year. Let the sous chef run the kitchen more. Get better every day.

And what about the red sauce? Have they dialed in the recipe after six months? “No,” Tim laughs, his head in his hands. “No. But it’s close. It’s getting there. It’s a constant tweak. But that’s not just the red sauce—that’s everything.”

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John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Senior Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in real life at various bar patios in South Minneapolis.