Owner of Frankie’s Italian Trattoria in Maggie Valley, Louis heads one of the finest well-oiled culinary machines in Haywood County. Specializing in made-from-scratch Italian “comfort” cuisines, Louis wants to make each patron feel not only welcomed in his establishment, but also full, of food and gusto, when they leave.
“We consider all the people that walk through our doors as guests, we don’t consider them customers,” the 41-year-old said. “Because a guest is invited into our home and that’s how we perceive that. Our guests drove by a lot of different restaurants to get here, so when they come to our front door, we want to do our absolute best to make their experience great.”
Opened in June 2011, Frankie’s is the next chapter of a family that has worked their way from the bottom rung of the restaurant industry into a multi-generational career path and deep passion for the culinary arts.
“We want our guests to know that this place isn’t just somewhere that a food truck shows up to unload and reload,” Louis said. “We are trying to keep the family influence on what we do as much as possible. It’s all about that next step quality, which we aim to achieve.”
The journey to Maggie Valley for the Parrones began in the early 1960s, when Louis’ father, Frankie, emigrated from southern Italy to Hollywood, Florida, to join his father and brother in working at a restaurant there named Doria’s. After a few years, the family purchased the Italian restaurant, only to purchase and revamp a second establishment, a seafood spot called Pier 5 (then changed to Frankie’s Pier 5) just down the road.
“The whole family always got more and more involved,” Louis said. “With those restaurants, you had my sister, my cousins, my uncle, my extended family.”
As a teenager, Louis got his start dishwashing and being a valet parking all the nice cars that would roll up to the storied restaurants. After high school graduation, he decided to forego college and culinary school to dive into more responsibility with the family businesses. Louis wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, which also meant acquiring the knowledge and respect for the craft of hands and food in the kitchen.
“My dad is a tough, stern Italian guy — everything has got to be a certain way,” Louis said. “And that’s the greatest thing, which is that, ‘It’s not because I say so, it’s because there’s a real reason, and if you want to know the reason I’ll give it to you.’ I understand the reasoning now, in preparing food and running a business — I see what it was all for.”
After Louis got married, he started coming to visit Maggie Valley, seeing as his in-laws had visited the area for years. His wife’s grandfather purchased a home here in 2001, with his in-laws then opening Hughes Lighting & Home Furnishing Center (now the current location of Frankie’s).
“My dad then bought into the lighting business, and things were great, for about five years, but then the housing market collapsed — the need for building crashed, the need for lighting and home accessories crashed,” Louis said. “But, my dad said since day one that if the lighting business didn’t work then a restaurant would.”
Thus, Louis took a chance and renovated the building into a restaurant. Although it seemed a potentially risky gamble to open restaurant in a tourism-based town, Louis took his father’s confidence and applied it to the vision for Frankie’s. Though the opening night in June 2011 was pure chaos for Louis, in getting every process streamlined and perfected, the support by their “guests” has only increased.
“We did over 80 guests that first night, then 99 the next day, and 140 the day after that — it just kept growing and hasn’t stopped,” he said.
And though day-in and day-out it may be overwhelming and challenging to feed and satisfy innumerable folks in search of a great meal, Louis is proud to be the one to do so. For him, his father, and his business, warming the soul with fresh, made-from-scratch Italian dish is what it’s all about — friends, family and food.
“When everything winds down at the end of the night, we’re ready to do it all over again tomorrow,” Louis said. “This place is a gift from God for us. We truly feel blessed to be here in Maggie Valley, and to have the support from the locals and visitors — we’re really fortunate.”
Editor’s Note: Frankie’s Italian Trattoria will one of the many participants at the Melange of the Mountains culinary gala on Thursday, March 26, at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville. www.haywood-nc.com.
Want to go?
The 11th annual Melange of the Mountains culinary weekend will be March 26-29 around Haywood County.
The event is the county’s premier culinary kickoff for the spring tourism season. It is a uniquely local epicurean partnership of innovative chefs, sustainable producers, crafty microbrewers and local farms. The culinary gala will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 26 at Laurel Ridge Country Club in Waynesville. As well, there will also be an array of special restaurant events and tastings March 27-29.
Participants include the Balsam Mountain Inn, Blue Rooster Southern Grill, Bosu’s Wine Shop, Boojum Brewing, Cataloochee Guest Ranch, City Bakery-Waynesville, Copper Pot & Wooden Spoon, Cork & Cleaver at The Waynesville Inn, Frankie’s Trattoria, Frog Level Brewing, Haywood Smokehouse, Lake Junaluska, Laurel Ridge Country Club, Moonshine Grill, Selu Garden Café/Room Service/Lobby Café at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, Sunburst Market, The Classic Wine Seller, Tipping Point Tavern and Waynesville Soda Jerks.
Tickets for the gala are $35 for chamber members, $40 for nonmembers and $60 for VIP.
For more information on the gala and about other culinary events throughout the weekend around Haywood County in celebration of Melange of the Mountains, click on www.haywood-nc.com.