Peppercorn’s Grill has been serving traditional and innovative Italian cuisine, including housemade pastas and breads, for more than 30 years on Main Street in Hartford. Amidst the current pandemic, the restaurant is providing family meals, curbside pickup, takeout, and delivery options to keep the community well-fed.
Several weeks before the quarantine, MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price chatted with Chef/Owner Dino Cialfi about operating a business in downtown Hartford.
NAN PRICE: Why Hartford?
DINO CIALFI: My brother, Sal, and I were living in Italy and returned to Connecticut in 1989. We had heard there was an energy in Hartford, and we wanted to be at the forefront of that. We had training running a restaurant in Rome but coming to Hartford was different.
NAN: How so?
DINO: In the beginning, we had a hard time getting people to come in. Italian cuisine wasn’t well known to the American public 30 years ago. Gradually, people started to come and then we received some good reviews in The Hartford Courant—this was long before social media, when people still read the paper, and suddenly we had a line outside our door.
NAN PRICE: Tell us about your evolution as a Hartford business owner. How do you remain relevant?
DINO: Peppercorn’s has been doing farm-to-chef style cooking for years, because that’s the way we learned to cook in Italy. We always try to reinvent ourselves with our cuisine and we also have this kind of obligation to stay true to our menu, because customers have an expectation for things like our Ravioli al’ Arancia, which has been on our menu since we opened. So, we’re still true to our culture, and we’re also creating new items all the time. We provide catering and can accommodate large and small gatherings.
We’ve been here a long time. Over the years, we’ve evolved to meet our customers’ needs by creating more opportunities to engage with the community. So, we offer cooking classes I teach with my cousin Laura and we get involved with the community through promotions, fundraisers, and celebrations.