Italian eatery cooks up success in Sarasota

La Mucca Ballerina of Manatee County

La Mucca Ballerina of Manatee CountyFor more than 35 years, Marsilio Zappaterreno has been a successful restaurateur. His dream may have started in Rome, but in 2016, he and his family moved to Sarasota, bringing with them a taste of Italy.

Though he and his wife Daniella still manage the restaurant in Rome from Florida, in 2017, they opened La Mucca Ballerina (The Dancing Cow) on Main Street in Sarasota.

“I have big experience in the restaurants,” Zappaterreno said. “Here, everything is very different. The system is very different.”

So, he turned to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida for assistance in running a business in Florida. There he met business consultant, Scott Carpenter.

“Scott helped me to understand the people, the system, and what they want,” he explained. “Everything for me in the restaurant is not really easy. It Italy, yes, but not here. I try to do what the American people want, but Scott helped me to understand the system outside and be myself.”

When La Mucca Ballerina first opened, it was a slow transition from the previous restaurant that occupied that location. When they first started working with each other, Carpenter helped him find his niche and discover how he stands out among other restaurants in the area. After Zappaterreno understood what the restaurant’s strengths were, the business began to boom.

“Before [La Mucca Ballerina] was a lunch place, 90 percent were sandwiches,” he said. “Now we’re moving on to dinner plates. We like to make dinner and it’s more profitable. The experience is also different. Lunchtime, the people are very busy – five minutes they want to leave. We like to stay with the customer. We like to enjoy dinner with a customer.”

When the business first opened, the area was affected by red tide. This made an already arduous time of opening a business even more challenging. “I must say honestly, that the first period was very hard – very, very hard. The fear was the red tide. Scott helped by showing us how to get a bridge loan,” he said.

With the bridge loan, they were able to stay on track and watch it successfully grow and develop.

Zappaterreno said that he enjoys working with Carpenter because he respects a business owner’s individuality. He allows the business owner to keep their uniqueness, and show them how to use it to their advantage to grow the business.

“I recommend the SBDC because I think in life everybody has to work and if you find the person that loves his work and shows professionality, every time, it will be very helpful,” Zappaterreno added. La Mucca Ballerina is open six days a week, starting at 10 a.m. daily.