Getting to know Carla Agrippino-Gomes
Boston’s North End is a 0.36 square mile neighborhood that’s home to over 60 restaurants. Famous for Italian cuisine, the neighborhood has a plethora of day and evening spots for the curious visitor searching for a true taste of Italy. For some, the restaurant business is a paycheck. People come in, sit down, eat, drink, and leave. For others, the restaurant business is a passion. These people sell what they love, and the people who eat there love what’s being sold. Recently, I spoke with one of these people, Carla Agrippino-Gomes, owner and general manager of Antico Forno, Terramia, and Cobblestone Café.
“People don’t know I’m the owner when they see me on a Friday or Saturday night,” Gomes tells me. “Probably because I’m at the host stand seating folks or running around the dining room making sure the guests have what they need.”
The key to running a successful restaurant, according to Gomes, is a hands-on owner that cares. Leadership starts at the top and trickles down. “I have forty three employees between the three stores and I know every one of their names.”
Though the stores have the same owner, their missions are different. Antico Forno Cucina a Legna, which means “Old Oven, Kitchen of Wood” in Italian, is a unique style because of the wood oven Carla uses to cook her pizza. The wood oven was the first in the neighborhood. What’s more is Carla uses volcanic ash on the floor of the oven, which retains heat better than conventional ovens. Carla likens the dining atmosphere to eating in your mother’s kitchen, comfortable yet deliciously authentic. Terramia brings Italy to you, literally. Mario Nocero, Carla’s partner and Executive Chef, was born and raised in Italy and brought the recipes he enjoyed from home. Cobblestone Café is the latest venture with family at its heart. Cozy and casual, the café offers flavored coffees (Snickerdoodle is Carla’s favorite), sandwiches, breakfast, burgers, salads, and more. With the help of her sons, Carla introduces traditional American fare into the predominantly Italian North End.
Carla exemplifies her philosophy of hands on. Twice a week she drives the van for Cobblestone and orders all the food. She doesn’t have any managers to pass the responsibilities to; however, she does rely on exceptional help in the kitchen. At the other restaurants, Carla does everything from bookkeeping, coordinating reservations, and even hosting fundraisers.
Carla’s philanthropy stems from the heart also. Her son, David, now 25, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes on his first birthday. Held at Antico Forno, leading CityFeast: Dining Out to Conquer Diabetes benefits the High Hopes Fund at Joslin Diabetes Center, she is recognized as a Community Event Champion by the Joslin Diabetes Center for her fundraising, Carla has contributed enormously to the fight against diabetes.
A graduate of the Forsyth Dental Hygiene School at Northeastern University, Agrippino-Gomes practiced dental hygiene for a decade before having children. “It was a nice career and I enjoyed my time in dentistry but I wouldn’t want to go back. After I had kids, I knew I wanted to go back to work but do something different.” Her brother Bobby had a restaurant on the Cape with Chef Mario Nocero. Mario wanted to expand and start a new restaurant but Bobby wasn’t interested. Enter Carla. “I asked Bobby, ‘Do you think Mario would be interested in a female partner?’ I didn’t think much of it but Mario called me and we talked. That was on a Tuesday. By Friday, contracts were signed and I had a new career.” Thrust into a new world, Carla found her passion by trial. Three restaurants later, I asked Carla what’s next?
“I don’t know. I don’t want to change. I love what I do. I never thought I’d be where I am but now that I’m here, I love it.”
Tradition, family, passion; virtues personified in Boston’s North End by people like Carla Agrippino-Gomes. See for yourself at Antico Forno, Terramia, and the new Cobblestone Café.