Ever since it opened, L'Oca d'Oro has played a leading role in the Austin food industry. This is at least partially due to the outreach of co-founder Adam Orman. From Orman's open letter in the Austin Chronicle at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to L'Oca d'Oro's leading role as part of Good Work Austin's reopening plan, Orman and L'Oca d'Oro have worked hard to create a culture on pace with their excellent food.
In this week's Instagram Live interview, we talked to Orman about the decision to create L'Oca d'Oro's now-signature collection of classic Italian dishes. We also discuss the ongoing challenge of bringing a restaurant community together during a global pandemic, and why Orman even sees some much-needed change on the horizon.
Here are a few key takeaways from our Instagram Live.
On the Decision To Open an Italian Restaurant
Adam Orman: "We had been running a supper club together out of Franklin Barbecue, where [co-owner Fiore Tedesco] was working at the time, and we would take it over every Sunday night, every other Sunday night and do different music-themed dinners. So, we would pick a band and each course would be inspired by a different album.
We had a different setup each time. Some were five-course dinners, some were 17-course dinners, some were just big like cocktail party setups. And we realized we both coming from the Northeast, we really wanted to open an Italian place. We kind of grew up the same way, eating at delis for lunch and eating Italian for dinner."
On What Makes Austin's Food Scene Unique
Adam Orman: "There is a much more ingrained dining-out culture in New York and San Francisco. I think that kind of goes without saying, and is not at all insulting to Austin... [But] along with that, there's a lot of preconceived notions or a lot of things that-- when I see how much we care about where we source our produce and where we source our meat, and how much our customers do.
Whereas, places like New York and San Francisco have already gone through backlashes on stuff like that. People saying, 'Oh, stop telling us how great your firm is.' And here that's still really exciting. Customers, I don't think are as jaded as they are in some ways in the other bigger markets. And we see that when we have people coming in from out of town and they're so excited to see slightly different versions of the kinds of restaurants that they have on the coasts or in bigger markets like Chicago because we're using the ingredients that are here.
On L'Oca d'Oro's Rapid Response to COVID-19
Adam Orman: "We have a little bit of a network and we also had the confidence of knowing that we needed to act as a community, that we had a lot of similar goals and we definitely had a lot of similar obstacles, and that the most important thing going forward was to act consistently. I think when we talked about reopening protocols as one of kind of the first things that we really tried to tackle, that was a place where we really were all in this together.
That phrase gets thrown around a lot, and it's rarely turned out to be true. But in that case, we all knew that no matter who the restaurant was, if there was a guest walking in who saw something sloppy happening or that there weren't protocols being followed, that all the restaurants were going to lose that [guest's] business for another couple of months."
On Creating Positive Change in the Midst of a Pandemic
Adam Orman: "I think we've seen that in the work that we do nationally, especially in the midst of this big racial justice movement, that folks are embracing the idea of paying their staff differently and more equitably and moving away from the tip to model in ways that I have not seen in the five years that I've been working with the One Fair Wage group nationally.
So, it's exciting. And despite all of the horrors and how difficult businesses and how we don't know what is going to happen from one week to the next, or even necessarily what business we're going to be running from one week to the next, to see the engagement around those issues and the engagement that restaurants have brought to their colleagues. Openness is just an amazing thing to see. And then it's keeping everybody going.
To get regular updates from L'Oca d'Oro, visit their website at www.locadoroaustin.com. You can also follow L'Oca d'Oro on Facebook or Instagram to be among the first to know about their subscription box service.