Authenticity and enthusiasm are the most important ingredients at Italian Grill on Broadway. Among tons of tomatoes, piles of pasta, and bushels of bread, you'll find Joan Manganaro and Lauren Deboe. The duo, partners in Italian Grill on Broadway, are the source of the restaurant's inexplicable energy.
The two met in Marion where Joan and her husband George operated Main Street Italian Grill. "As a kid growing up, George had worked in restaurants," says Joan, "and he'd always said he'd never own one. But he got bored and opened a pizzeria in Pigeon Forge. He purchased the farm here on the Internet and eventually said we ought to move it all to Marion. So we did!"
"Then one day, Lauren walked in. She was selling high school yearbook ads. She was very outgoing. She couldn't figure out my last name. She called me Mrs. Mango!"
"Yeah, and she bought an ad anyway," laughs Lauren.
Eventually, Lauren approached Joan about a job. “And she was hired! She did a bit of everything from cashier to server to salad lady," says Joan. "We became inseparable friends."
The two eventually decided to move to Paducah, taking with them chef Brandon Lambert. Once renovations were complete, the Italian Grill exuded authenticity both in restaurant design and food. The interior was completed with reclaimed materials from local barns to include the tables. Chairs came from another local restaurant, and furnishings were purchased at local markets and antique stores.
When it came to the heart of the restaurant, the Italian fare, Joan, Lauren, and Brandon decided everything needed to be made fresh. "Everything is made from scratch," says Joan, "from the croutons to the pasta to the sauces.
"We go through a lot of ingredients," laughs Brandon. "We make and use about sixty quarts of marinara every other day. We use 100% durum wheat semolina and go through about seven cases of eggs in a week to make the pasta."
Italian Grill serves the standard pasta forms: spaghetti, fettuccine, lasagna; but the creativity doesn't stop there. Joan and Lauren drove to Pennsylvania to purchase a pasta machine imported from Italy. The machine is capable of producing fifteen different varieties, giving Italian Grill a menu full of styles.
The popularity of fresh pasta was immediately evident, and now, Joan and Lauren offer fresh, raw Italian Grill pasta in local markets for preparation at home.
"We've had an amazing reception," adds Joan. "We’re committed to downtown. We've moved everything to be here, and it is truly a family business. We have at least five families whose livelihoods are here."
"Yeah," says Lauren, "We knew we made it when we got our own meme. It was a photo of some kids celebrating and it said 'How I feel when I get a reservation at Italian Grill.' That was awesome!"