Venice

Summer 2016

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114 venicemagftl.com JEY Hospitality serves an elevated version of comfort food. BY LYN FARMER PHOTO BY KELLY STERLING BURGER BATTLE TESTED A great burger is no flash in the pan. To Marc Falsetto, the hard- nosed businessman with a soft spot for making people happy, the humble hamburger is the food of the future. "At the end of the day, the No. 1-selling item on any menu in America, even at a Chinese restaurant, is the burger," he says. "It is the ultimate comfort food, and I don't see that changing anytime soon; deep down, people want comfort food." Falsetto is building a thriving business on that belief, starting with Rok:Brgr, which he describes as, "both a hamburger bar and a gastropub," and now moving on to Taco Craft, Pizza Craft and Himmarshee Public House. Falsetto's JEY Hospitality Group (the name, pronounced "Jay," stands for "Just Enjoy Yourself") has been growing. "We are slowly expanding our circle, but always with very focused concepts," he says. "We don't want one restaurant where we try to be all things to all people." Falsetto knows what people he wants. "We are really bullish on millennials," he says. "They spend more money on dining out than baby boomers and Gen X combined. This is a group, raised with food on television, that recognizes quality and appreciates locally sourced and sustainable ingredients. If the quality is there, the audience will support you, even if it costs more." From craft beers (he had 100 beers on the opening menu of Rok:Brgr) and craft cocktails to using house-made pickles and local cheeses on his burgers, Falsetto finds comfort in focused flavors and local ingredients. "Comfort food triggers a memory from childhood," he says. "It gives you a special feeling, and it's up to us to enhance the experience." That means potato chip-crusted cod for Rok:Brgr's fish and chips, using bacon (sometimes candied) on dozens of items, and evoking family memories whenever possible (Nonna's Sunday Gravy at Pizza Craft and Mom's Meatloaf at Rok:Brgr). As for what Falsetto orders when the urge for comfort strikes, there is no question. "To me, comfort food is what started the whole project—a burger made with great beef, perfectly cooked, plenty of cheddar and bacon, and a bit of barbecue sauce. That's the Rok:Brgr, and that is total comfort to me." v WHERE'S THE BEEF Opened in 2010, Rok:Brgr took the South Florida burger-eating world by storm with its farm-to-table concepts, such as its popular namesake burger, a beef patty piled with melted cheddar, bacon and barbecue sauce.

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