- By C.W. Cameron For the AJC
You might say every Sunday is Father’s Day for Charlie Augello, the owner of E. 48th Street Market.
Father’s Day will find the family of Charlie and Anita Augello spending the day as they usually do. Children and grandchildren will convene at the couple’s Sandy Springs home to enjoy Sunday dinner the couple cook.
The day we visited there were 15 for dinner. That’s the usual number for a Sunday afternoon. When the whole family gathers (one daughter and her family are in North Carolina) there are six more.
They sit at a long table, which expands to at least 14 feet, that Charlie had made for Anita so the little ones wouldn’t have to be segregated from the adults during meals. The table reaches into a seating nook that overlooks the multilevel deck with its Big Green Egg and Italian pizza oven. From the deck you can reach the family’s bocce ball court, and everywhere there are places to sit and talk. And there are potted citrus trees and figs, with the figs Charlie propagated from a plant his father brought from Sicily many, many years ago.
It’s all part of what seems to come naturally to the senior Augellos – nurturing everyone and everything around them. Daughter Andrea Faye Augello says both her parents are great cooks but Anita chimes in that Charlie is the one who can open the refrigerator door and make a fabulous meal of whatever he finds there.
Charlie says he was always interested in cooking. “Nobody went out to eat where we grew up. It was Italian food day and night. And when I left home as a young man, I was so ready to eat hamburgers and French fries. But after six months, I was calling home asking, ‘How do you make this?’ and that was the beginning of my cooking. I’d cook, and my roommate would do the dishes.”
He and Anita met as schoolchildren, and he remembers watching her family prepare meals. An uncle was a self-taught chef and would prepare dinner for huge family gatherings by making as many as 15 or 20 salads for his antipasti, and Anita’s father cooked Sunday and holiday meals.
Watching Charlie in the kitchen, it’s hard to believe he ever had a career that didn’t involve cooking. A background in electrical engineering brought him to Atlanta with a job. In the early 1980s, ready for a change, he and Anita pondered their next step and thought about how they always brought boxes of food back from their travels through Europe. “We began making a list of what people might enjoy like fresh mozzarella and fresh pasta and decided to open the market.” The shop opened on Sept. 30, 1986.
Charlie says there was another motivating factor: “Deep down it was our desire to establish something the family could take on for the future. Fortunately, we had children that stepped up to it, and now Andrea has taken the reins.”
Son Chuck was the shop’s front end manager for 19 years, and Andrea was its first kitchen manager. It seems like a natural fit for someone who grew up watching her parents cook. She remembered when the family lived in Boston and would feed all the neighborhood runners the night before the Boston Marathon.
After a dozen years working full time at E. 48th Street Market, she took time off to raise three daughters, although she always helped out when needed. Once the girls were in school full time, she came back to the shop full time.
Not only does this family eat most every Sunday dinner together, and work together, but they vacation together as well. The shop will close for the first week of July and everyone will head to Isle of Palms for a family beach vacation. Andrea says, “Our customers say, ‘You guys work together and you go away together?’ And I answer, ‘Yeah, we actually like each other!”
What’s the secret?
Andrea says, “At the very beginning, I was 20-something years old working at the deli and the hardest thing was my dad telling me what to do. It was my mother’s brother who helped me understand he was doing it because he wanted me to lead by example. I always remember Dad telling me, ‘At work I’m your boss. At home I’m your father.’ That always stuck in my head.”
Charlie adds, “I think we’re pretty privileged to have most of our children have been part of the business. The discipline we set up in the beginning is that it’s a business and family is separate. That was the best thing I ever did. And when we’re all home together, we don’t talk about business.”
Watching three generations of Augellos gathered around bowls of homemade cavatelli and platters of The Boss’s Chicken, it’s easy to imagine the scene on Father’s Day. They’ll be at that same table, eating and drinking, laughing and talking, just as they do most every Sunday.
Anita Augello wrote her cookbook, “Basta Pasta,” as a way to document the family’s recipes. “Basta” is Italian for “That’s enough!” and is the punch line to a family story about a trip to Italy and a dinner with way too much food. Watch as Augello demonstrates how to make Bonati, a stuffed bread with Italian sausage, spinach, olives and cheeses.