Moms, Meet Johna! Mother of 2, Culinary Institute of America graduate and local business owner (273 Kitchen) with husband Constantine. Her honesty on the challenges of parenting is refreshing…especially when you couple it with helping to run three successful restaurants…
Tell us a little bit about yourself ?
We moved around a bunch but born in the Bronx, spent my adolescence in White Plains and Scarsdale. After college I spent a year in Miami, then a few years in NYC and currently living in Greenwich. Harrison was a place we frequented often growing up and being from the area and it’s been incredible watching this great little town evolve!
Family life is always hectic with a restaurant schedule, but we always make sure we are on the same page and playing on the same team. As long as that’s happening it somehow all comes together! We are grateful to have an excellent team at 273 Kitchen to help us make it happen otherwise spending any time together would be an impossibility. Our front of the house management team, Taeko and Michael Mazzella, have played a crucial role in the current success of 273 Kitchen, we are so grateful for them and the whole staff at 273 that rock it out every day.
One thing people would be surprised to know about you…
Constantine and I met and dated at the Culinary Institute of America when we graduated in 2003. We were together for 3 years and then went our separate ways. I finished my bachelors at CIA and he had already had his bachelors at that point and was working on his career in the Manhattan restaurant scene. We lost touch for a few years until we wound up working directly across the street from each other. He was the chef de cuisine at Anthos and I was working for Restaurant Associates at Clifford Chance on 52nd street. I knew that he worked there but it was pretty shocking on my first day of work to see the entrance to his restaurant 50 feet away! Fate brought us back together for sure.
Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
First, my mom. She is my rock and a guiding force in life always. Luckily I have a wonderful family that lives close by (my dad, aunt, cousins) all have been instrumental in my parenting journey! Also my husband, having a strong partner to go through this journey is essential. My children have so many people in their lives that love and adore them and I try not to ever take that for granted.
Favorite things to do with your kids?
Anything we do out of our daily routine is so exciting for them. We love day trips to the beach, going on hikes, going to the playground, visiting a local farm or orchard. I find that kids are most happy and tranquil when they are in touch with nature.
We also love taking overnight trips with them to see family in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and then summer trips Montauk. Whether its a new adventure or a familiar place, seeing their faces fill with joy and knowing that they are having fun is the absolute best feeling.
Are you involved in a business venture, a local organization or a creative endeavor?
When we opened our first restaurant, 8 North Broadway in 2012 we had our daughter Isla 2 months prior. I left my job in the corporate food world and was working behind the scenes with the restaurant. When we opened 273 Kitchen in 2015 we had our son, Leo the same week as the opening! Balancing it all has been a challenge but my kids are woven into the fabric of those restaurants so I think that’s pretty special.
Recently I went back to work in the corporate dining world full time for the first time since I had my first and it’s been quite interesting trying to keep all the balls in the air but somehow we’re making it work (with lots of help).
How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?
Our partner, Michael Raneri had the original vision for this space and saw the potential, and we were so grateful to meet him and bringing our visions together to life. The town was very efficient in getting us open and the people of the Harrison community have all been wonderful! The local businesses there are all super supportive and we all try to help each other.
Any time saving tips you’d like to share?
This is such a challenge for all of us moms. We are always battling the clock whether it’s getting everyone out the door for school or the dreaded dinner/bedtime routine. I found that dinner is always the most difficult and time consuming so cooking for a few days at a time and freezing it, buying pre-cut vegetables, pre-made soups, whichever ways you can cut corners. It takes a village whether we have that village or not we all need support to keep our sanity. Getting out of the house is key especially with the real little ones. I had the most difficult time when my kids were 1 and 3. Library outings, meeting other moms, getting fresh air and bundling them up was essential for survival. Making the time for girl’s night, date night, helps to make us feel human. My favorite quote about motherhood…”the days are long but the years are short.”
Cheers to all the moms out there, you’re all doing a great job!