In this episode, Michael Dermer speaks to Michael Grant, founder of AnticoNoè. For over 70 years Antico Noè has built a cult-like following out of a tiny storefront in an arcaded alley off the Piazza San Pier Maggiore in Florence, Italy serving delicious and authentic Italian panini.  Now, thanks to two young entrepreneurs Michael Grant and Vinny Dautaj (who met while living in Florence nine years ago), Antico Noè has arrived in the U.S. After graduating from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business, Michael quickly established himself in the world of corporate restructuring and despite a burgeoning career, he always had a hankering to do more….to create his own destiny.

Michael spent the semester in Florence coming to appreciate the art, history and culture, but most of all, the food. Something that would set him on a path to become the entrepreneur he had always imagined himself to be. While living in Florence, Michael, as most others visiting and living in Florence, came to love Antico Noè, going as far as eating there at least three times a week. Truth is, so did a lot of visitors before him.  The difference is, it stayed with Michael from the moment he left Italy.

Also during his time in Florence, Michael would befriend his now business partner Vinny Dautaj, who worked at a local restaurant in Florence.  As fate continued to play its hand, Vinny would go on to marry an American girl, move to New York and reconnect with Michael.  Monthly catch-ups often turned into discussions of dreams and goals. The two of them, both itching to do more, kept coming back to the incredible business and following of Antico Noè and how nothing in NYC compares.  The two formed a strategy for Vinny’s next trip home to Florence where he would recite a well rehearsed pitch to convince the owners of Antico Noè to let the duo replicate their authenticity in the US.

“You need to be open. You need to be flexible. And it should be that the best idea wins.”

After months of discussions, the two, utilizing their respective backgrounds in corporate finance and restaurant operations, convinced the Italian owners to expand the brand to the U.S. under their control. To ensure consistent quality and an adherence to tradition and taste, the US-based team studied and trained at the Florence location learning the various secret bread and sauce recipes, as well as coming to understand the magic of the little “sandwich shop” in order to replicate and offer an authentic panini experience.

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Every successful entrepreneur has a big break and Michael’s big break was the opportunity to cater Jennifer Lopez’s 46th birthday party on a yacht in the Hampton’s. And you will hear Michael tell the story of how their role to provide one element of the food expanded at the last minute to be the primary caterer when the on board chef had to bow out. And like other great entrepreneurs they stepped up and made it a wild success.

Michael shares his views on:

  • What it takes to leave corporate America for your dream
  • His big break with Jennifer Lopez
  • Living up to the reputation of a well-known and loved brand

TAGS: struggle, entrepreneur. startup, lonely, investor, stress, succeed, business, learn, venture, angel, perspective, innovation, solopreneur, success, failure, management, funding, growth, passion, grit, learn, lean, Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, Antico Noe, A-Rod, Luxe Interiors + Design, Worth Magazine, Interior Design Culture + Commerce, designers,  Philippe Starck, Paola Navone, Kravitz Design, Lenny Kravitz, sting, Steve Madden, self made, fitness, martial arts, personal trainer, Lower East Side, Garnett Strother, professional trainer