April 13, 2023
Anna Maria Florio creates harmony in her demonstration kitchen, La Cucina at the Market. An alum from the Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC) Philadelphia 2021 cohort, Florio mixes ingredients and community building to create a thriving business that brings people together. From corporate bonding events to couples’ pasta-making classes and bridesmaids’ parties, Florio helps folks in her kitchen work together.
“It’s about the holistic experience of sitting down to eat and the preparation that goes into it,” explains Florio. “I feel like I’m contributing a little bit to world harmony because when we have public classes, we recreate something like Sunday supper. That was the first aha moment. People are craving this, whether they lived it or they didn’t, or they imagined it, or they saw it in a movie. We have all these different people who cook together and then sit down and eat together, and then we see them exchanging numbers and going out afterward.”
A Philadelphia native born to Italian parents, Florio grew up spending summers in Campania, Italy, where she learned to cook – and eat – like an Italian. Florio’s experience is very much what she intends to replicate at La Cucina at the Market. “I was able to bring some of what was innate and natural in my upbringing,” Florio recounts, “like long periods around a table and that dynamic when people talk and yell and debate, and you’re still at a table, in a communal environment. I think people are longing for that, from the pandemic, but I think even before that, they were longing for that.”
Cooking class menus include sweet potato ravioli with brown butter and sage; Stromboli (invented in Philadelphia by an Italian immigrant), a savory turnover made from Italian bread dough or pizza dough, and stuffed with cold cuts and cheese; fettuccine with sugo Bolognese, farfalle with pistachio pesto, or Nutella French toast. All prep is hands-on, featuring kneading, cutting, hand-stuffing pasta, and learning how to use a pasta machine; this group’s labor is often accompanied by a glass of wine or a mimosa. Florio joined ICCC’s 2021 Philadelphia to help expand her business acumen but found some difficulty bridging the gap between her old-world way of doing things and the modern approaches needed to keep and grow her business until she connected with her coach.
“My [ICCC] coach, he was totally technologically driven,” Florio begins. At first, she thought it was a poor match, that her coach was teaching something that didn’t suit her or her way of doing business. “I was thinking that marketing meant creating a brighter newsletter and reaching out in some kind of flowery way.” After three meetings, Florio could appreciate that her coach was teaching concepts and ideas relevant to her. He offered approaches and techniques that have since become essential to Florio’s marketing plans. “He started to teach me about Google Ads and search engine optimization and what to do to my website.”
“I’ve been to a few [ICCC] Opening Seminars,” Florio says, “and [listened to] a few speakers, and it always amazes me the variety of businesses that are there. And yes, they all have the same questions, and they all have the same problems, and it’s kind of great to see that it doesn’t really matter what your business is.”
Anna Maria Florio is an alum of the Philadelphia 2021 cohort and owner of La Cucina at the Market. To hear more from Florio, watch her Alumni Highlight on YouTube.
To learn more about what Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) can do for you and your business, whatever business you’re in, visit https://icic.org/programs/.
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