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Celebrate Small Business Saturday

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Inspired by this post by Duct Tape and because small businesses are the entire reason Marcello Entertainment exists, I thought it only appropriate to share my favorite local small biz.

I suppose it’s a strong point of emphasis in most Italian families, but growing up, the dinner table was a very special place for me.  It was where Dads regaled kids with tales from business travels abroad, where the latest gossip from school and the neighborhood was traded and where plans and dreams were brainstormed.  As I grew older, my social circle replaced my family (other than Sunday dinners, of course!) and the dinner table became the epicenter of our shenanigans.  And now, as my bar-hopping days are in the rear view mirror and my family is dispersed in different locales, the act of breaking bread has emerged as the entertainment main stage for my social activities.  Rare is it that a night goes by without a text with “Dinner at Angelo’s?” or “Grilled pizza at my crib”.

All that said, a dinner table is not simply a dinner table.  Nor is a restaurant a restaurant.  It’s the company, the atmosphere, the lighting, the service, the overall vibe that transforms a simple piece of wood with four legs into an experience.  And that’s exactly what you’ll find at Cozy Corner in Johnston, RI. Originally used as a breakfast and lunch joint for truckers due to its close proximity to the landfill, it was taken over by a young Italian American husband and wife duo a couple years ago and introduced to the dinner crowd shortly thereafter.

The place is the definition of unassuming.  When I had first heard about it from my friends, I couldn’t believe that a place that “had the best food you’ll eat in this state” was located in the middle of nowhere (next to the dump, no less!) and had managed to slide under my radar all this time.  Alas, it had won over my food-loving crew, so I gave it a shot.  The first time I went there I actually drove by it.  “Wait, that dumpy bar looking place was it?!”  Little did I know what I was about to get into.

The place is small.  Maybe eight small tables and, with seating at the bar, room for about fifty.  No liquor license, so it’s BYOB.  First thing you notice is that there are no menus.  Since it’s only open on Friday nights for dinner (now Saturday nights, too), the menu was fresh and ever-changing, written on a large chalkboard behind the bar.  First sign of a great eatery – the bread was brought out immediately, very fresh, and accompanied by various types of homemade infused olive oils.  The menu could give anyone troubles – there is typically not a thing on there that doesn’t look appetizing and unique (the pumpkin ravioli is simply amazing).

But enough about the food, I can name lots of places that have killer menus.  What sets Cozy apart from any other restaurant in town is the vibe.  It’s as close as you can come to Sunday dinner at Nana’s house.  Anthony and Felicia run the place with Anthony manning the tiny kitchen and Felicia running the front-of-house operations.  Felicia is like the young mother of all the patrons there, opening bottles of wine, recommending dishes and, importantly, busting chops all over the place.  She knows everyone and everyone knows her.  Better yet, seemingly everyone knows everyone there anyway!  It’s not the type of place where you sit at your table and converse in your little space.  Everybody walks around and chats up other tables like it’s a social club.  I had originally scoffed at the idea of BYOB, but it turned out to be the coolest part of the experience.  Most people bring in much more than they personally can consume, along with homemade wines and newly discovered bottles.  And everybody shares!  It’s what I imagine a wine tasting club to be like, just louder.  Anthony regularly comes out from the kitchen and joins us in a few sips of our homemade Limoncello.

There is one particular experience that exemplifies the glory that is Cozy Corner.  My friends and I are sitting at the bar on another Friday night, joking around with Felicia, sampling our neighbor’s homemade Zin, soaking up some bread in red pepper olive oil.  In comes Matt Light, an offensive lineman for the New England Patriots (apparently he’s friends with Anthony).  No big deal, as he is treated like everyone else as he enjoys a meal with his friends.  A good two hours later, he presents the largest bottle of tequila I have ever seen to Felicia, along with a box of small glasses he brought along.  Next thing I know, he is having Felicia pour about 35 shots as the entire restaurant joins him in a toast to Cozy Corner!  Oh, and he donated the glasses to the restaurant.

It is with local businesses like Cozy Corner in mind that I raise a proverbial glass to the rest of you in honor of your contributions to our neighborhoods and our daily lives.  Click on the image below to show your support for Small Business Saturday.



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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

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