EP73: Kicking ass, running a restaurant, and touring Italy – An interview with Jenna Arcidiacono


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This week on Lean the F*ck Out we talk with Jenna Arcidiacono owner and chef of Amore, an authentic Italian restaurant in Grand Rapids, Mich. Jenna is an accomplished chef and Amore has won Best New Restaurant 2011, Grand Rapids Magazine; Restaurant of the Year 2012, Grand Rapids American Culinary Federation; Best European 2012, Grand Rapids Magazine and Chef of the Year 2013, The Grand Rapids Press. With all her accolades Jenna was noticed by Guy’s Grocery Games and recruited for an episode that aired this October. Jenna gives advice on how to build a business and keep employees long term; talks to us about how she was able to conquer the restaurant business as a female; and how she supports other women-owned businesses.

Building Restaurants Episode Highlights:

  • Days off are very important when you have a busy schedule.
  • Jenna has found that work can’t be her entire life, she needs a balance and break to be the best she can be for her business and family.
  • Running a business is more like being a psychologist (especially when dealing with staff). It takes a lot of coaching and counseling.
  • Staffing is the hardest part of running a service business. You know your service or product, but the hard part is finding a good staff to help you make it happen.
  • Learn how to manage and deal with people in order to be successful.
  • As a business owner you have to stand up for yourself and your product, you can’t waiver based on critics or trolls.
  • The customer is not always right, particularly with radical complaints. Kill people with kindness. Sometimes have to let it go.
  • Embrace that everyday you will learn something new.
  • Find your tribe, the people who truly support you.

Jenna Arcidiacono

Jenna Arcidiacono’s first job at 14 (in 1988) was slinging chili dogs and root beer floats at Cook's Drive-In in Kentwood, Michigan. Slowly she began realizing that cooking was more than just a way to pay for her stirrup pants, music cassettes and perms. She moved to East Lansing to finish her degree in art and continued to work in restaurants as a part time job. She managed a vegetarian restaurant until the owner decided to close and tried to pay the staff with hummus. At that point, she should have known what she was in for by working in this unique business. Her next job was at a Korean-Chinese restaurant where she became passionate about the diverse styles of Asian cuisines. She spent time learning from the cooks after hours and ate what they would make for family meals--which are always quite different from what's on the menu.

After receiving her Bachelor of Fine Arts at Michigan State University, Jenna decided to make a big move-- to San Francisco. She wanted to live in a big city and soak in as many styles of cooking as she could. Besides getting into plenty of trouble, she got a job at a 10 table restaurant in North Beach called "L'Osteria del'Forno.” It was run by two Italian women and is still going strong in 2017. Jenna was not educated in true Italian cuisine and was often screamed at in Italian, "How is it possible that you don't know what bresaola is!!!?"

Her next job took her to San Francisco's famed Mona Lisa restaurant, which lead to a fateful encounter. One day a stranger, named Maurizio, stopped in for an espresso. He was visiting from Milan with his friend and ended up staying a few extra days in San Francisco. Soon after, Maurizio took Jenna on her first trip to Italy and she fell in love with the food and relaxed culture (and of course with Maurizio). She spoke no Italian--but in the kitchen with her future mother-in-law pointing and giggling sufficed. Soon after, Jenna and Maurizio were married and she lived in northern Italy for three years. Her favorite days were spent at the outdoor markets purchasing local produce, cheese and honey and in the kitchen with Vittoria, her mother-in-law, who taught her how to make gnocchi, bechamel and bread from scratch.

After having two daughters, and working in corporations, Jenna felt it was time to go for the dream of opening her own trattoria. She wanted to serve homemade locally sourced authentic Italian comfort food. Amore Trattoria Italiana opened in July of 2010 and has been her biggest project to date.

Amore has won Best New Restaurant 2011, Grand Rapids Magazine; Restaurant of the Year 2012, Grand Rapids American Culinary Federation; Best European 2012, Grand Rapids Magazine and Chef of the Year 2013, The Grand Rapids Press.

Follow Jenna online at:




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