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Mario Tucci

"I can't remember when I didn't know how to cook," says Mario Tucci, who learned at the side of his grandmother in Modena, Italy. "My first dish was meatballs." When he was in high school, Tucci spent summers in the mountains of Tuscany, serving tourists at the Hotel Ristorante Miramonti in the small town of La Consuma. He met his wife Shivan, a Eugene native, in Italy. After a wedding here, they lived in Italy for seven years before returning to Eugene with their daughters Alex and Phoebe. Tucci worked at Mazzi's for a while, then started, ran, and four years later sold a coffee company, Caffe Onesto. In 2007, he and his wife bought the Friendly Street Cafe, located inside the Friendly Street Market. "I have an incredible menu," says Tucci, "South American during the day, everything home-made, and super-authentic Italian at night-time." The produce is mostly organic and purchased from local small farmers in season. Wednesday night is gnocchi night, featuring live music and a few loud-talking Italian ex-pats. "I personalize the food a lot," says Tucci. "You can come in and say, 'Mario, make me something,' and I'll do it. Even on a busy night, I remember every single dish I make."

happening people

photograph and story by Paul Neevel

Eugene Weekly / 5 August 2010

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