Hamilton County and Noblesville and Regional News and Restaurants and Retail and Real Estate & Retail and Small Business and Inside Dish

INSIDE DISH: Italian eatery thrives despite early blunders

July 30, 2010
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Welcome back to IBJ’s video feature “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Matteo's Ristorante Italiano, a Noblesville eatery born in 2003 from the budding romance of Matteo Di Rosa and Emily Herner. Matteo is one of four brothers in the Di Rosa family responsible for the local Italian spots Amalfi Ristorante Italiano and Capri Ristorante. He and Emily met while working at Amalfi in 2001, started dating, and soon determined that they shared the dream of opening their own place. (They married in 2005.)

The plan was for Matteo to run the kitchen and Emily to anchor the front of the house, but neither one had the back-office business experience to launch a new eatery. In the video below, they look back and laugh at the many naive blunders they committed while trying to get the restaurant off the ground, including running out of start-up funds before they could stock food and alcohol.



That the restaurant was able to survive and succeed is a testament to their single-minded focus. "We were like a bull," Matteo said. "All we knew was that we wanted to do a restaurant." A frugal mindset didn't hurt either. They were able to open the 4,200-square-foot Matteo's in 2003 with less than $100,000, some borrowed decorations and cookware, and supplies left over from the previous restaurant tenant.

In the last seven years, they have invested as much as $400,000 total into the space, prodding the bare-bones original incarnation to evolve into a swank, white-tablecloth eatery with high-end overtones. And they learned the business end as they went. They hired a restaurant consultant for an initial consultation in 2008, and then were able to make improvements on their own once they had a clear enough sense of the operation's weaknesses. The more streamlined operation was able to grow their 2009 sales to $1.3 million while in the midst of the recession.

Despite their ongoing success, the Di Rosas are keenly aware of the day-to-day challenges of maintaining and growing their customer base. "Every day we open the door, I feel like is the first day," Matteo said. "I can remember the feeling, and I carry it with me."
 

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Matteo's Ristorante Italiano
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40 N. Ninth St., Noblesville
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(317) 774-9771
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www.matteosindy.com
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Concept: Traditional Italian fare blending northern and southern styles.
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Founded: March 2003
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Owners: Matteo and Emily Di Rosa
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Start-up costs: $90,000
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Sales/profit: $1 million in sales with a $130,000 profit (2006); $850,000 in sales with a $113,000 profit (2007); $1.2 million in sales with a $131,000 profit (2008); $1.3 million in sales with a $140,000 profit (2009).
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Employees: 20
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Seating: 140 (plus 80 with banquet room)
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Goals: To attract more banquet and catering business.
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Good to know: In 2007, the Di Rosas purchased a neighboring building for $560,000. They are in the process of renovating it, with the intention of either leasing the ground floor space to another restaurant or keeping it as an alternative location for when their lease expires in 2013.
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