Marinated in success

By Raina LeGarreta Citizen Contributor

 Nov 15, 2017 ~ Elk Grove Citizen

It’s been 10 years since Geno and Franco Cassella opened the doors to what would become one of Elk Grove’s most successful restaurants.

The Cassella brothers will be celebrating the anniversary of the anniversary of  Brick House Restaurant & Lounge located in Old Town Elk Grove on Nov. 17-18 with drink specials, good friends, and fun times that may whisk them back to those dusk ‘till dawn days that they remember.

“When we opened the Brick House, I think I was 30 and Franco was 28, and we always loved to have fun with our customers,” Geno said. “Being as young as we were, I think we had a bit more of a partying spirit in us, so we really had a good time with them to the point where we not only built our customer base but we also made a lot of  good friends with the people in this town.”

Geno said that for the anniversary weekend, as a throwback to what customers remember, he and Franco are more than ready to party with their family, friends, and customers in celebration, which will most likely entail staying open until the wee hours.

“I may even stay out until 3 in the morning with them – I haven’t done that in like five or six years,” he said.

The story of the independently owned and operated restaurant’s inception is perhaps a motivating one for proposed business owners in an era when small businesses often open but, unfortunately, don’t always stay so for long.

Geno and Franco worked in the corporate world prior to opening their restaurant, which was something they long aspired to do.

They opened the Brick House at the former Elk Grove Meat Company space in the fall of 2007. Business started one year before the last recession hit, and although there were bumps in the road, they pulled through and excelled.

Geno spoke about the financial struggles the restaurant faced in its beginnings.

“We did struggle with the business in the first six or so years. Being new to it all, we had to learn a lot of things,” he said. “But you have to be tenacious and make sure you’re in it for the long haul and that there’s no notion in your head telling you to quit,” he said. “The restaurant business can beat people up pretty bad, so you have to have some grit to plow through those hurdles.”

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“We did struggle with the business in the first six or so years. Being new to it all, we had to learn a lot of things,” he said. “But you have to be tenacious and make sure you’re in it for the long haul and that there’s no notion in your head telling you to quit,” he said. “The restaurant business can beat people up pretty bad, so you have to have some grit to plow through those hurdles.”

The owner noted how the atmosphere of his father’s business gave the brothers insight about how restaurants work. Their father is best known as “Papa Gino” at the Brick House.

 “I always had a knack for cooking – and our dad owned nightclubs when we were younger, so we were always in that entertainment/customer service environment. That gave us a good foundation,” he said. “First, we wanted to start out with a sports bar. Then we took that concept and put a business plan together and expanded on it. While we were waiting for the lease to come through, things just kind of ironically evolved into more of an Italian restaurant. Before we knew it, we looked around and thought, ‘Wow, we have a pretty high performing restaurant on our hands’.”

Soon, the Brick House became known for its menu, which includes signature cocktails, pasta dishes, and sandwiches – and a sense of camaraderie put forth by its owners.

It wasn’t unlikely for the owners to make pancakes for their patrons early in the morning after they’d spent a night at the bar on any given weekend.

The Cassella brothers further expanded business in 2014 when they opened their Italian Deli and Old Fashioned Hot Dogs joint across the street, not too far from the Brick House – and they are looking to open a second Brick House restaurant outside Elk Grove.  

But right now, they’re just gearing up for a bash to thank the community.

“We’re starting midday through the weekend and we’re going to do throwback to 2007 pricing for drinks,” Geno said. “We’re just going to hit the bar and have a good time…and I’m sure I’ll be back there making pancakes at 3 a.m.”

Photo by Steve Crowley

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