Growing up in Napa, Italian food and wine “was a huge focal point for my family,” Justin Graffigna said. Because of those culinary roots, “I always thought Napa needed an old-school Italian restaurant,” he said.
After stints working at other restaurants, Graffigna, 37, and partner Arik Housley opened Il Posto Trattoria on Solano Avenue in April.
“I’ve been wanting to do this my whole life,” he said. “I decided it was time.”
What’s a common question or misconception you get about your business?
I think a lot of people think the restaurant business is easy. You’re always looking for ways to make it better. You work really hard and sometimes the profits aren’t huge. You’re always finding ways to save on costs without sacrificing quality.
Why partner with Arik Housley?
We’ve been friends since we were about 10. He’s a guy I’ve always respected. We agree on a lot of things. It just felt right.
Why did you choose that location for the restaurant?
(Housley’s) parents own that complex (and) there’s not a lot of restaurants in north Napa.
It’s going very well. We’re busy every night. The challenge has probably been lunches. They are a little up and down.
What’s new at your business?
We’re doing some new lunch specials, which are fun. Some old classics. We have an Italian sub sandwich. A sausage calzone. A meatball sandwich.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Work hard, be patient and great results will come. Patience is the key for sure.
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to open a restaurant?
Gather as much experience as you can. Work for a few different people. You can always take a little bit from each person. Expect to work long hours.
Whom do you most admire in the business world?
A.P. Giannini. He founded the Bank of Italy in 1904. Eventually it would become Bank of America. You should read his story. Brilliant man.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
Learn Italian fluently.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
A little town called Melaque in Mexico on the Pacific Coast with my wife and kids.
More from Graffigna
Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?
Dean Martin, Robert de Niro, Willie Mays.
What job would you like to try/not like to try?
Not try: Any job that requires me to sit behind a desk for eight hours.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Emptying the wastebaskets at my house when I was a kid.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Increasing a consistent lunch business.
What’s on your to-do list?
Live in Italy for at least six months with my wife after the kids are grown and out of college.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
The direction in which the sun sets and hits the restaurant in the evening.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
That my family is much more important than the restaurant business will ever be.
What was your childhood ambition?
To become a chef and own my own restaurant. I guess I accomplished half!
Which other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”
Alfredo Corona (Taqueria Rosita).
Baris Yildiz (Ristorante Allegria).
Aaron Diaz (Uva Trattoria).
Robert J. Williams, DDS (local dentist).
Chris Dearden (owner/winemaker, Dearden Wines).
Reach Graffigna at 251-8600 or visit IlPostoNapa.com.