Last week, I wrote an in-depth, heart-felt response to my critics and haters which I suggest anyone in the food or entertainment business read. Basically if you never read any of my blogs before and wanted to learn about who I really am—and why I do what I do—that was the blog to check out. I know it was long, but I had a lot to address. That will hopefully be the last time that I discuss the topics of the “Goomba” and reality TV and how I market my business (until I visit the Bill Russo Show on July 9th, that is.)
To sum it up, in a nutshell, I am trying to take my business to the next level, but I never want to stray from my roots. And that’s what I really mean when I say I am “caught in the middle” of the Italian-American nationality…I am not an old man but I am not a kid either.
From the food side, I have people from one end of the spectrum urging me to go the cheap “Domino’s” route and others urging me to go the ritzy “gourmet” route. But I will always be basic, Jersey Italian-American comfort food and will not deviate.
From the marketing side, I have the “holier-than-thou” folks saying I should be more serious and formal in my approach, and then the MTV demographic who ask me to go out and party with them.
I am just a family man and don’t represent either end of that spectrum. Maybe that’s why I am not making millions. Yet. But I can’t sell out and succumb to manipulation. I am just gonna keep on plugging.
I truly appreciate the flood of kind comments from all my fans and supporters out there. I reached the milestone of 5,000 facebook friends last week—an accomplishment I am very proud of. I have made so many connections since joining the world’s most popular “social network.” Facebook serves as such a great vehicle for me to share my thoughts and I thank everyone out there who also share my blogs and tweet them and view all of my videos and photos. One hand washes the other, and I make it a point to also share links and fan pages of my friends who also have their own businesses to promote or an important message they want a lot of people to see. That is what I use facebook for. Not to argue politics or anything hostile.
There isn’t always perfect harmony within those 5,000 friends, which is not something I can control. I personally never find myself in the midst of controversial facebook conversations, and that’s because, as a business man, I do not engage about certain topics. Occasionally, I do notice that friends of mine do engage in them and I just try to stay neutral and do my thing. But I would like to say this, and this is advice to all of my 5,000 friends—but specifically those in the food and entertainment business…
Each and every one of my 5,000 friends I consider customers (or potential customers). As are all of their friends. If one of my friends shares my business page on their wall for example, all of their friends see it. And so on and so forth. Placement on anyone’s facebook wall is extraordinarily important—it’s free advertisement and also interactive advertisement…where people talk about you and your product and discuss it amongst others. The reach of such a thing is really immeasurable, and therefore, I cannot risk any “ill-will” by taking a stance on a particular topic as a businessman and as a public figure.
But beyond that, I really am not a controversial person by nature—personally or professionally. I am one of the most non-confrontational people you can meet. That does not mean I do not have VERY STRONG stances on many subjects, I just do not ram any of my beliefs down anyone else’s throat. And I am not saying I won’t ever discuss certain things, but if a situation ever gets too hairy, I take a very subtle exit strategy and that’s that. It’s simply not worth the drama.
You should never burn bridges because you never know who one person knows. If you tick off that one person, you may have tainted a potential collaboration or opportunity with the second person…even if they never met you or spoken to you direct. They will take the word of the person you ticked off (even if you are 100% in the right) and not want to deal with you. As I said last week, I get a lot of unsolicited business advice and unless the person is straight disrespectful, I answer in a tactful way if I disagree with what they are saying. I take all input and advice and I have very thick skin. One has to be open to all commentary when they post something on facebook…there is nothing wrong with conversation...even a light-hearted debate. That is what social networking is all about.
I always make it a point to respect my counterparts in the industry instead of throwing up an immediate defensive reaction. That just shows insecurity. One of my 5,000 facebook friends happens to be Daniel Mancini of “Mama Mancini’s Meatballs In Sunday Sauce”—my direct competitor. I am secure in who I am and what I do and wish no ill-will or hardship on anyone. I think I made that message clear many times. I can say with confidence that Daniel’s meatballs are good but at the same time I would put mine up against his—or anyone’s in a heartbeat. Daniel does his thing and I do mine. I would never try to be him and he would never try to be me. See how that’s different (and more positive) than me coming out and saying that “he stinks” or something to that effect?
The only time I ever recall things getting hostile with a fellow competitor is when Joey “Saucy Balls” tried to be a second-rate knock-off of me on “America’s Next Great Restaurant.” But even then, I offered somewhat of an olive branch and suggested we have a friendly meatball throwdown and truly let America decide. He declined all of my e-mails.
Something else that makes me annoyed is when fellow food industry people rip foods that are similar to theirs, although not directly the same food. Like for example, if I was to sit here and knock the hamburger, it would be very foolish and reflect poorly on me. I love hamburgers and I love meatballs. I love ice cream and I love gelato. I love authentic Neopolitan pizza and I also love classic New York style pizza. There is plenty of love for everything and trying to put down something else to make yourself look good only makes you look bad.
Look, the food business does have its corporate, cut-throat aspects like any other business. But when someone is selling a food, they are selling themselves and the face of your brand should never be ranting and raving. Or going on endless tirades about logistical details. The public does not care about that stuff. They care about you as a person and how dedicated you are to your craft. The craft of food is supposed to be FUN! Maybe I take the fun to the extreme sometimes but that’s my schtick and I am not changing. Clearly, at least 5,000 people enjoy what I do on a daily basis.
Those 5,000 range from regular Joes and Josephines, to celebrities—well known and also up-and-comers, writers, foodies, singers, athletes, folks from my neck of the woods in Jersey to all around the world—from Italy to Australia and all points in between. Every one of them are important to me and could offer potential opportunities. I could write a whole novel in itself about all the unique individuals—male and female—who enrich my daily life with their posts and all the great conversations we have. So it’s not worth it to jeopardize that by discussing the health care bill.
One other thing that infuriates me is when someone goes out of their way to make a nasty remark on someone’s food photo. I was raised that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. For an individual to write “eww that looks bad” or “you made it wrong” on a particular dish is the same as calling someone ugly because of the way they look or dress.
Alas, I am probably wasting my time trying to spread some good cheer, but there is enough sadness and hostility in the world. “Don’t worry be happy” as the old song goes. That motto should apply even if you face bumps in the road. Nobody likes a complainer. I didn’t know all of this stuff right out of the gate, it took me nearly four years to get all the facebook etiquette down and to taylor my facebook page into the proper representation of myself I am totally comfortable with and proud of.
I will conclude today’s blog with a message to anyone out there who feels the need to use the “un-friend” feature on facebook because of their insecurities and that’s this: take a deep breath, take a step back and don’t be so sensitive. Because you aren’t just un-friending one person. You are un-friending hundreds—if not thousands (maybe even millions) more.
I give others the benefit of the doubt—unless you verbally or physically hurt my wife or kids or my mother. Then we will have a serious problem. But in general, I am all about second chances. Even third. Most individuals to not have that same philosophy or mentality. So don’t burn bridges in this life.
I would like to take this time to wish a very happy 2nd birthday to my son, Christian Dean who turned two yesterday. I took a day off of cooking and we celebrated on Saturday at Mr. Bruno’s Pizzeria in Lyndhurst with our family and friends. I can’t believe how big “Baby Meatballs” has gotten already. They really mean it when they say kids grow up so fast. I love him more than anything. Happy Birthday Chrissy!