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Thoughts from Tom Cortopassi

Sharing Success: High School Movie Tickets

Maureen and I recently enjoyed a nice dinner out together before an evening at the movies. Perhaps because of Covid, it had been quite a while since we had visited a theater.

Paying for our tickets, the prices seemed a bit higher than what I expected. They were certainly much higher than the $4 I remember paying back in high school.

Then it hit me. I was comparing “Apples to Oranges.”


Groceria Merante, Pittsburgh, PA

For more than 45 years, Groceria Merante has kept Pittsburgh, PA, locals supplied with premium cut-to-order deli meats and cheeses, hard-to-find imported groceries, specialty hand-packed ice creams, unique whole bean coffees, as well as hot Italian entrees to go.

Owner Filomena Merante says that the 2nd and 3rd generation Italian-American families who originally settled in the neighborhood regularly return from the suburbs for a taste of their favorite foods and to stock up on traditional staples, especially during the holidays.

Key Idea – Besides cooking her Italian entrees with only premium quality ingredients, Filomena credits the enduring success of the family’s cozy 900 square foot shop to her staff’s focus on making every customer’s visit an upbeat, welcoming experience.

Even if they are busy helping someone else, her tight-knit staff makes a point of establishing eye contact and warmly greeting each arriving customer within seconds of entering the store.

Long-Term Thinking

In his highly successful 53-year career, fine dining restaurateur Giovanni Galati says his secret to retaining loyal repeat customers over many years (and thousands of dollars of purchases) is unconditionally guaranteeing their complete satisfaction with their meal, period.

Key Idea – So whenever a guest doesn’t appear to care for a dish (even when they don’t complain and even when the meal was perfectly prepared), Giovanni’s servers immediately offer to replace it with something else of the guest’s choosing. They also politely explain that they have comped the disliked item and the replacement if accepted. This additional “generosity” helps guests feel valued and removes any lingering dissatisfaction that could keep them from eagerly returning next time.

Unconditionally guaranteeing satisfaction (not just quality), along with providing consistently superior food, has helped keep Giovanni’s high-end clientele fiercely loyal and reinforced his Word of Mouth reputation for excellence.

Giovanni Galati, Owner
Dominic’s on the Hill
St. Louis, MO

Frequent Freshening

To better stand out from other quality independents, Luca Iovine wanted to keep his decade-old pizzeria feeling fresh and contemporary over time, without losing its traditional vintage vibe.

Key Idea – When Luca first took over a previously occupied pizzeria location, he loved
its brick walls and vintage vibe. To overcome the unfortunate reputation of the prior business, Luca needed to immediately make everything feel visually cleaner and cheerier. The emotional impact of brightly repainting
the entire interior was so dramatic, Luca decided to update his interior paint colors and rehang different pictures every two years to keep his business always feeling fresh and vibrant.

La Vera Cucina:


For Kansas City restaurateur Jasper Mirabile, the aroma of hot sfinge (sveen-jay) or fried Sicilian doughnuts vividly reminds him of his childhood, sitting on his Nana Josephine’s kitchen counter while she made him this traditional treat. While some versions of sfinge are ricotta-filled, Nana Josephine’s version is enjoyed plain, with a dusting of sugar and honey. Jasper warns that these puffy pastries are addictive!