Behind the scenes with the owners of Red Haven
Chef Anthony “Tony” Maiale, 34, and front of the house manager Nina Santucci, 34, are the owners of East Lansing’s Red Haven restaurant. Last week, City Pulse sat down with the entrepreneurial couple to talk about the ups and downs of owning and running a restaurant, married life and more.
Maiale: It just makes sense. When you’re using the best quality product, you don’t really have to do much to get the best quality dishes. And the best quality product comes from your backyard, which isn’t traveling thousands of miles away. And then, the personal connections and relationships with the farmers, that they can just grow whatever they want for you, anything you can’t get from the farmers market or anything else. You just say, “Do it this way and this size,” and you can get what you really, really want.
Santucci: We lived in Texas in 2006, when there was the big recession. I remember hearing about it on the news, but you wouldn’t have never known that in Austin, because there was so much growth happening. The city was just bustling and doing so well. In Texas, they have a very pro-Texas thing going on, promoting community, but Austin particularly took it a step forward. Chain restaurants didn’t do well there. It just created this bubble where they weren’t as affected by the recession as we were up here. One time, we were up here visiting for a holiday or something, and we were just like, “Whoa, this is what they’re talking about on the news.” It was a completely different environment. We knew we would be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on food; if we can keep it in our community, we can do a little bit of helping our local economy. It’s a lot more rewarding, writing those checks knowing that it’s going to a family who we have a relationship with.
Between running a business together and being married, how do you manage home and work life?
Santucci: We have a little kid on the way, so that’s going to really be an interesting dynamic to throw into the mix. I’m due Aug. 10 with a little boy. We’re here most of the time; Tony is here 12, maybe more hours per day. Most of our life is spent here. We try to have a little bit of separation, but it’s our life. We basically eat, breathe and sleep this place. Our balance isn’t great. We don’t get a lot of time off, but I think we both enjoy it so much, I just can’t imagine it any other way.
Maiale: We don’t do a good job. We’re going to find out shortly though. That’s the good thing about starting from scratch and doing everything different, is that you’re needed, but you’ve got to train everyone and trust everyone so that they can do it without you. I mean it’s tough, especially with the workforce out there today, it’s hard to find good people.
This week’s Back of House is an excerpt from a previous edition of City Pulse. Though our current Back of House writer is on vacation, next month’s edition will return to normal.
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Red Haven Tuesday- Thursday; 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Friday; 5-10 p.m. Saturday; 5-8:30 p.m. Sunday; closed Monday 4480 Hagadorn Road #103, Okemos (517) 679-6309, eatredhaven.com