Holy Meatballs! We Have a Winner!
The restaurant business has its challenges, not the least of which is dissatisfied customers. When a complaint repeats itself you know it’s time to make a change. Change can be hard in any environment. Change in a place where things have been done the same for decades can be downright painful.
Since Roger and I beamed up here; 3.31 years ago today, in fact, there have been changes. We wouldn’t dare mess with Geppetto’s signature recipes but replacing Sysco brand meatballs with my East Coast girlfriend’s Sicilian Grandmother’s recipe was a no brainer. They are labor intensive, which I know can be a bad thing in business but in this case so worth it. The investment of time is a lot. Our Stuffed Meatball Pizza is a huge hit! It’s when the meatballs are served on a plate, in orders of three where trouble seems to come. It hurts my heart to find them on a plate in the dish room or to hear customers say, “Their dry. Too dense. Couldn’t even cut it with my fork.” My reactions have run the gamut, from “Well they are just impossible to please.” To… “ Who was on the line when they ate?!” Last evening’s complaint was to be the last. Knowing the hours myself and others spent making them over the weekend, I vowed to get to the root of the problem.
I laid in bed overnight, unable to sleep. I went over the entire meatball process. From the time my dear friend surrendered her Grandmother’s recipe and helped me figure and multiply “a little bit of this and a handful of that” by forty. I remembered with great fondness the time I enjoyed those meatballs in their family home. I thought perhaps I’d died and gone to Italian Grandmother heaven! Then it hit me, the missing stretch in the road to consumption! What Geppetto’s wasn’t doing made all the difference and it wasn’t good. They needed to simmer, in sauce, for HOURS! Then and only then should they ever be consumed.
So, this morning, I arrived at the restaurant with a plan in mind and it worked! I was so happy to have found a solution. No more of the old way. The new way has begun and it is a Geppetto’s meatball game changer! I can’t wait for folks to order. The tenderness is there. The flavor is rich. This is gonna be great, I thought.
Well, my awesome change in procedure was not well received by some.
“You’re giving us one more thing to do and obviously… you’re not a cook. You don’t know what it’s like.“
My response, “What if this makes it easier for you?” Ultimately, the goal has to be customer satisfaction! A little more time in preparation can make all the difference!”
We reached an understanding when he took the time to taste them. The rocky road smoothed and all will be well. All will be better as we learn and grow. Reflection and examination of things is not always easy or comfortable but so worth it.
To quote a wise Vulcan, "Change is the essential process of all existence." -- Spock
As I rolled out of bed I spoke to myself. Saying; “Gotta keep moving forward in faith and hope for brighter days."
We didn’t sign up for today’s parish BBQ but I told Rog, “If we can… I’d really like to go to church.” I know God is always with me… but there is something quite special about meeting Him there.
We have been to church twice since March 16th. Life feels strange without that part of community but we’ve had to be present here and able to pivot on a moment’s notice. Signing up for anything beyond ordering and deliveries is truly a gamble. Our schedule is predictable in one way; we open at 11:00 am, seven days a week.
My dear husband is not particularly good at remembering so I was surprised when he returned from an errand and said, “You ready? Let’s go to church.” I dropped what I was doing, grabbed my purse and as we headed toward the door we were intercepted with the news that there would be a delivery order ready in about an hour. Roger’s eyes met mine and we spoke without words.
Maybe next time.
“Let’s go get something to eat.” I said. We have time for that.”
The two of us spoke along the way to Flight Deck about how hard these times are for so many. The depth of loss is great. As a business we are doing what we can for our guests and our staff on a very personal one-by-one basis. I mentioned to Roger that I wished we could do more. Then the Still Small Voice spoke to my heart and assured me, we are doing what we can, for now, and there may be more to do tomorrow. Message received… let the space between hurting and helping remain and prepare yourselves for what is to come.
We parked and donned our masks. I can’t wait till this is over too. I thought. Gazing into the gray over the tarmac, another reality hit; There will be no take offs or landings today. It’s hard to know where the smoke ends and the fog begins. We are simply stuck. Forced to wait for Mother Nature to help. “Dear God, please, clear the air and let it rain.”
As we entered the Flight Deck, a sweet voice called from inside the restaurant, “Roger and Julie, your table awaits!” There she stood. Flight Deck server, Victoria, had set a table for us. She spun and smiled and outstretched her arm like Vanna White presenting prizes on Wheel of Fortune. I haven’t approached a set table since March and COVID-19 guidelines have been in place. Paper napkins around flatware and red plastic drink cups never felt so fancy. I was genuinely moved by the gesture and about two bites into Chef, Frank Primley’s, Huevos Rancheros when the lump in my throat took over. Tears came to my eyes as I spoke, “Roger, look what God did. He knew we wouldn’t make it to church today and instead he set a table for us here at Flight Deck.” Frank and Victoria were not aware of our earlier disappointment but they were part of the plan… a better plan. God nourished our bodies and blessed our hearts.
We left breakfast well fed and with a deeper sense of community. If you don’t feel like you’re helping… or doing enough… keep doing what YOU do. Do it well so you are ready. We never know how or when God will use what each of us has to offer. Thank you Frank and Victoria for being and doing your best. You made a big difference in our lives today. And so y’all know… Frank’s Ranchero Sauce… is really, really yummy.
Supply Chain Realities - I Married Our Sysco Rep!
Even in space there is need for supplies. The things we acquire help us to function and thrive. Those of us in the restaurant business are dependent upon vendors to keep necessary supplies coming. Vendors provide the things we need… so that we are able to provide for our customers. Since March the uncertain sands of supply chains have, at times, affected our ability to provide as we would like. Some suppliers seem to be struggling more than others. If I had a dollar for every time I heard the words, “There is nothing I can do.” I would be on vacation and somebody else would be guiding this ship! As long as the we are open for business, “There is nothing I can do.” is simply not an option. In ever changing times such as these we have to do something. Quick thinking and creativity are required. If one vendor cannot provide we have to find another way.
Sysco is one of Geppetto’s vendors. I would like to take an unusual moment and offer thanks for our sales rep. I call him “Sysco David.” He deserves a shout out of galactic proportions. He is creative and helpful and genuinely concerned for the well being of his customers, the success of their businesses and the community in general. Through it all he has been by our side, ready to assist in figuring out a work around no matter the challenge we face. Today I came across the above picture in my photo library. Sysco David is pictured at center. The photo was taken a year ago at Friends of Pimpollo's Tamale Trot here in Salem. Sysco David, #5156, was running to raise money to provide education for those in Southern Mexico who cannot otherwise afford it. David has a huge heart. He is generous with his time and wisdom. I am grateful for the partnership we share. Side note… he is very funny and an incredibly gifted chef who has solid answers to my frequent culinary questions. He is always watching for ways to help us do and be better.
Roger and I were heading to the bank on Thursday when Sysco David messaged. He needed our weekly check. The money is not the most fun part of our relationship… but supplies don’t come for free. We agreed to meet for lunch at Ritter’s. We took time to discuss the two most important ingredients in the restaurant business; food quality and consistency. Ritter’s and Wild Pear truly have those two things dialed in. Because we are willing, we are learning and growing with every experience.
David ordered the crab sandwich. I followed his lead because I trust his taste in food. He wasn’t wrong… it was absolutely delicious! He is perpetually helpful. He is the Sysco rep I call, friend.
It is true, about a month ago I married Sysco David. Well, actually, I officiated for the marriage of he and his lovely bride. They are destined for a life together filled with great food, deep love and lots and lots of laughter. You can either be the rep who easily accepts defeat and “There is nothing I can do.” Or… you can pivot and change, offer other options and perhaps make an even better way.
Geppetto’s Log - Stardate 081520
Dining out used to be a special treat. Since we bought a restaurant... it's what we do... every day. Most often our days end sharing a small thin crust pizza. The current state of things has given us good reason and many opportunities to support local restaurants other than our own. We've been meeting new people and trying new things. It's been a joy to share the cuisine of our community with each other and our staff.
I made a pizza delivery the other day to a dear man and decades-long Geppetto's customer. His name is Gary Epping. Gary's family is well known in the area for their community oriented giving. Through the Epping Family Foundation they do more good than I could speak of here. Boys and Girls Club among other things are being built because of their generosity and the hard work and dedication of many.
As I made my delivery to Gary's office, I noticed the giant, bountiful green-apple tree out front. I suggested Gary get a horse or a goat to help with the harvest. When invited to partake, I jumped at the opportunity (literally). The old tree is part of the Epping Family property. I can imagine many years ago, before the buildings, it stood with other trees. Down to one in that spot, it still bears fruit. Much like their family, year after year it just keeps giving.
What I realized that day is that sometimes there is nothing better than receiving the gift of fresh fruit, picked from an old family tree. Standing in the grass with friends feels good, some taller friends, who could reach apples much higher than I. Thanks, Chuck! First bite made me pucker, as well it should have! Take time. Eat well. Be well. Love deeply, Give and Laugh much!
2 Corinthians 9:6-8
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Geppetto's Log - Stardate 081220
Holy snap! Warp speed has been reached! The last few weeks have been a wild ride.
We're missing our thirty year guy, Marty. He is dealing with some health issues and is taking some much needed time away. Ain't gonna lie... not having him here leaves one heck of a gap. I called for guidance as to making our Chocolate Mousse and Frozen Mousse Pie. He patiently gave precise, step-by-step instructions and our mission to remove those beautiful desserts from the "86 List" was complete. We may attempt our Chocolate Nut Torta today but time will have to allow. Get well Marty! And get your "self" back here!
In other news... Geppetto's has a brand new customer! His name is Grayson Roger Pelley. He was born at Salem Hospital to our daughter Maddie and her dear husband, Zach. He weighed 8lbs 12oz. Because of COVID restrictions we were unable to visit the hospital. We had to wait until they were home and ready for a visit. I was in Tualatin on delivery when I received her text.
"You guys wanna come by?"
By the grace of God, traffic wasn't all that bad. Still, I could not make the trip go fast enough. I called for their order... because to arrive withough food would be ridiculous!
"I'll have a small Black Olive pizza, medium rare." Maddie said. "Zach will have the Penne with Meat Sauce, no salad."
I called Roger and asked him to put the order in. I headed for home. I showered and vowed to wear anything but black. I grabbed two fresh face coverings for Grandpa Roger and myself, then raced to the restaurant where we grabbed the food and set out for what felt like a first date.
There he was... in Daddy's arms. Be still my heart. He is beautiful. They are strong and lovely as a family. I could not be more proud. Feelings run deep. Heart strings are real. There is a constant tugging now. Just want to be with him. As time allows I will. Such a gift. Such a blessing. Much more to share.
More posts to come! Thank you for your patience.
Geppetto’s Log - Stardate 073020.1
Old School Beats Modern Day
I admit I was disappointed when Shelby, the genius mechanic, told me the 3D printer guys would not return his calls. He had been trying to reach them for a week or more for help with Ma’s ravioli machine parts and they just weren’t connecting.
“I’m just gonna take it to my guy.” He said.
Shelby’s guy is Richard. Richard at G&S Machine on Cherry Avenue in Keizer is another one of those guys who can figure anything out. Shelby brought Richard Ma’s busted ravioli machine parts and within a day… we had them back. Shelby came to the restaurant in the evening and installed them. “No time for a cold one.“ He said. “I’ve got some work to do for my mom and we’re getting ready to go camping at the coast.” He continued… “When you get this thing rollin’ you might need to adjust it some to get the amount of filling you want. Loosen that nut and slide this bolt a little to the right for more and a little to the left for less.” Mission complete. He was gone.
Roger and I just stood and stared at her for a minute or two. “Wow. I said. I wonder if this is gonna work.”
The next morning, Saturday, Roger and I whipped up a 1/4 batch for a test run. Rog makes the pasta and I prep the filling. Eric arrived around 9:30 to help and it was go time!
It only took a few clicks to see the fix had worked. The machine worked so well... not only were the little pillows full… but they were bursting at the seams!
“I think we need to back it off a little.” I said. Collectively, the three of us were holding our breath. You could tell for a few seconds nobody wanted to make that move. I looked at my hands and made my arms reach out. I took the panel off to reveal the part that would need adjusting. Roger went for a crescent wrench. “Wait!” I said. “Let me call Shelby. I can’t remember if we’re supposed to go to the left or the right.”
Robin answered Shelby’s phone. “Sorry, She said. He’s on top of the motor home. She hollered to him. “It’s Julie. She can’t remember which way to move the bolt to make less meat? Toward the gear he said. Slide the bolt more to the center in the direction of the gear.” I thanked her. Hung up the phone and relayed Shelby’s instructions.
Holding our breath again, Roger loosened the nut. To our surprise, gravity took over and the bolt slipped all the way to the left. We simultaneously gasped. Regrouped and slid the part back to where we though it was previously. “Now, I said. Shelby said to move it a little to the right… more toward center. Roger tightened the nut. We replaced the panel. Said a little prayer and turned the switch.
What little we could make with the remaining materials turned out great! I hooped and hollered and may have performed my most incredible victory dance to date. Ma’s ravioli machine had been re-born! Shelby’s research from Salem to Italy had revealed she was probably manufactured sometime in the 50s. Here we are some 70 years later and she’s popping out raviolis like a champ!
Shelby is the hero here. Richard is his side-kick. Thanks to them, we are back in the ravioli business! Answering the call is the real message here. We are all born with gifts and abilities and we are here to use them for the good of all.
Houston, we have a problem!
I have hesitated to speak of this publicly.
The weight of this story’s outcome is potentially great.
When Geppetto’s door opened August 26th, 1974, Ma Borsotti was making her delicious ravioli by hand. I’ve heard said, it would take her six days and many expletives to make seven days worth of ravioli. Around that time, Tom, her son, heard tell of a man in San Francisco making ravioli for United Airlines at the time. The man wanted to buy a bigger machine and was interested in selling the smaller one.
How Tom learned about this guy and his machine for sale… without the internet is beyond me. Regardless, his sister’s husband was sent to San Francisco to pick it up. For Christmas 1974, Ma was given the former United Airlines ravioli machine. It came without instructions and no owner’s manual. Tom tells some great stories about the trial and error days as they perfected the new way. Ma’s life was made much easier and that machine is still in use to this day at Geppetto’s. At least it was… until two Saturdays ago.
There is a lot to making Ma’s Ravioli. The fresh pasta, the filling and the process of bringing the two together are all important. It is an art. An undeniable change in the end result has unfortunately revealed a problem. Yield and quality have diminished. Something has gone wrong and we can’t make Ma’s Ravioli with her machine unless it can be repaired. It has no identifying markings as to its manufacturer. All we know is that it was made in Italy. Probably quite some time before 1974. The machine’s technology is simple and smart and beyond our ability to make any kind of definite diagnosis as to the problem.
Looking over the old girl, I remarked aloud, “We need that “older guy” who likes to tinker with stuff. The kind of guy who can figure anything out. Does the world even make those kind of guys anymore?”
Just then, twenty-four year Geppetto’s server/bartender, Jamie, a man of few words, softly spoke one name, “Shelby.”
“Really?!” I asked.
“Oh yeah, he said. That guy’s amazing. He can figure anything out when it comes to machinery.”
Shelby and his lovely wife, Robin, are true friends and regular Geppetto’s customers. A Ma’s Ravioli fan, all it took was a quick text and Shelby was on his way. He looked like a surgeon in his headlamp as he observed the machine. I watched in admiration as he studied how the mechanisms worked over and over again. I showed him an example of our latest batch which had not been broken up yet.
“It’s definitely a delivery problem.” Shelby said.
Discerning that narrowed the field and he was able to identify the source.
“It’s a timing issue.” He said. And this gear (which could fit in the palm of my hand) is the problem. That metal star has turned so many times it’s just plain worn out. Its points have worn unevenly and that’s where the problem lies. With this machine… timing is everything. You need a new gear.”
We spent a week attempting to track down manufacturer, specs and information to no avail. One night, at dinner here, our son-in-law made the suggestion of using 3D printing to manufacture a new part. I forwarded the link to Shelby assuming he would be too “old school” for that. Nothing could have been further from reality. He jumped at the opportunity to learn.
“I’ve always wanted to learn about 3D printing.” He said. Shelby came back to the restaurant the next day to remove the part. He took it to a guy in Portland where it will be reverse engineered and its original size determined. When ready the specs will be sent to a 3D print company in Bend. They will manufacture the part and only then will we know if Geppetto’s coveted machine will live to produce again.
Some have said, "Why bother? Get a knew one." It's not that simple. And I believe, the machine and Ma and Tom and Shelby and many others deserve our best effort to restore what was once great.
We’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile… say a little prayer… and give thanks for the “older guys’ who like to tinker and aren’t afraid to learn. We won’t make it much longer on the number Raviolis we have left in house. What Ma would do in this moment has crossed my mind. What she would have to say, I imagine, is perhaps too colorful for publication and matches my sentiments precisely.
We made our way to Flight Deck for an awesome lunch today. I have always loved the view overlooking the tarmac. Reminds me of visiting airshows with my dad as a kid. While dining at Flight Deck… in the midst of summer… Autumn was fantastic! She was our server. Frank, whom I assume, is the head chef… because he was wearing black and had a thermometer tucked in his sleeve… popped out to greet us as we left. The place was very clean. Roger thoroughly enjoyed his fish and chips and my quesadilla was great! Portion so large… I know what I’m having for dinner. On a side note… I want commercial air travel in Salem. To fly over the commute to PDX would be amazing!
Salem Area Chamber of Commerce GREETERS
Salem Aviation Fueling
Salem Area Chamber of Commerce
Amidst the difficulty of a pandemic… love remains and continues to bring new life. You see… while Geppetto’s has been busy navigating the black hole of guidelines and protocols our daughter has been busy growing a baby and working as an RN in the Neuro Trama Care Department of Salem Hospital. True to form… she carries herself and that busy baby boy with grace and grit. Suddenly, he’s due to arrive in three short weeks! A baby shower upon us and no time to clean house… I was less than prepared. Then it hit me… Let’s have a pizza party! So… Baby Pelley’s First Pizza Party took place last Saturday at 2:00, here at Geppetto’s. Of course, we were limited in number… about twenty in total. We socially distanced and had a blast laughing and building our own pizzas. So… if you don’t have time to clean house… and you need to throw a party... consider our house your house… our “home” that is Geppetto’s. Call to inquire - 503.378.1271. We remain... healthy and thankful.