For owner Michael Cirinna, it’s all about family.
“At Claudia, we offer a personalized service and touch,” he says. “You come in a few times and we get to know you. You are not just a customer.
Claudia’s Grinder Shop built its success on caring for its customers, a product of its original owners, Cirinna’s parents when they came to the United States from Sicily, Italy. They lived on Franklin Ave., a hub for Italian immigrants in the mid-1900s, with a culture steeped in conversation and compassion. Claudia is no different.
“It was like that before,” Cirinna said. “But not so much. I’m trying to bring back that kind of service.
In the end, it’s quite simple.
“Claudia’s name is my sister’s name,” Cirinna said. “Originally it was supposed to be for my mom and my sister. A small cafe and a delicatessen.
He remembers being about 10 years old at the time, traveling with his father from place to place in search of a suitable location for the business. Most of the owners told him it wouldn’t work, that an Italian grinder shop in the suburbs wasn’t financially viable.
Until they found their cozy shop in Farmington, where the owner was looking to sell.
“We had a rocket for this stuff,” Cirinna says. “My dad worked at the Franklin Giant Grinder Shop. My parents actually had a pizzeria in New Britain a while back, but they decided to get rid of it as the neighborhood was getting tougher.
Claudia’s Grinder Shop opened in February 1997 and found success almost immediately. Cirinna’s father sold his landscaping business and came to the store full time. Cirinna jumped in soon after, learning the ropes before leaving to attend college for graphic design while working at a bar in Hartford.
“That’s where I developed a passion for hospitality. I wanted to be part of something like that. I loved being part of this company.
He found himself missing it after starting a career in graphic design, only to be laid off while in Boston. He went home and took his father on his way home to Claudia. With his new experience in hospitality and design, however, he had big plans for the cozy grinder shop.
It didn’t take long for Cirinna to intervene.
“I used what I learned at university and in bars to help the business,” he says. “I started renaming it to become what it is now.
He used his college education to design their logo. He doubled down on Claudia’s friendly, family atmosphere, going out of his way to chat with all regulars and newcomers alike. His parents had laid the groundwork; he had only to develop it. It wasn’t long before he was running the business himself.
Coupled with its excellent customer service, however, is an equally impressive dedication to fresh ingredients and food quality. Again, he has his parents to thank.
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“The food in Italy and the standard of catering there is incredibly high. You don’t really see fast food there. Everything is fresh and made to order. »
It’s the same with Claudia. The grinders are all made to order, with a fan favorite, the chicken cutlet, being cooked around the clock. It’s best served “American Style,” a term Cirinna ended up learning from a friend who refers to the way people ordered in the 60s on Franklin Ave. It’s lettuce, mayonnaise, tomato, and American cheese, all on your choice of bread and Meat. And Claudia certainly doesn’t skimp on the latter.
While the pandemic has put a damper on Cirinna’s initial plans, it’s excited to move to a new, larger location this fall. He is even happier to expand his menu.
“We used to have a hot board before the pandemic,” he says. “We will be adding this to the menu when we move into our new location in the fall. The plan is to provide dinners and sell homemade pasta and such.
You can also expect a return of their Homemade Stuffed Spinach and Buffalo Chicken Pot Pies. He also wants to try arancini: a cone-shaped fried rice ball with sauce and cheese. They are popular at Italian festivals or if you are visiting Little Italy in New York.
Most importantly, however, Cirinna promises the same level of food quality and customer service that customers know and love.
“We serve high quality food; I’m a fan of that. The same goes with personalized service. When I hire people, I make sure they are sociable. The children I hire here; everyone is great. They all get to know each other. »