They don't run their restaurant from a top floor of a skyscraper. Nearly any day of the week you'll find Mark Girardin and Brandon Ubelhor in the trenches of their Italian bistro, piling toppings high atop a made-to-order pizza pie and tossing chicken wings in their special hot sauce.
“I consider this my retirement,"Girardin said. "I left the rat race for the human race.”
Girardin and his partner Ubelhor purchased Castrillo’s Pizza, located at 1404 McGavock Pike, in East Nashville, this past February. The men had been studying local business and franchise opportunities for about a year when they discovered that Castrillo's was for sale only a couple of miles from their home.
Girardin’s was looking for a ticket out of a lengthy IT career. Ubelhor had extensive experience in kitchen management, handling and catering. Upon hearing the news that Castrillo's was up for sale, Girardin and Ubelhor immediately considered the purchase and closed on the deal only a few months later.
The partners refer to their restaurant as an ‘Italian bistro’ because its menu fare extends far beyond pizza. Castrillo's now offers buffalo wings in varying degress of spiciness, feta cheese bread and a vast selection of pasta dishes. Giardin said pizza accounts for about 50 percent of sales. Some of the restaurant's regulars tend to order subs and pasta dishes at the beginning of the week, and pizza on Fridays, sampling from each part of the menu, Giardin said.
What makes Castrillo's pizza distinct lies beneath the toppings.
"When Mark and I first tasted the pizza crust we knew we had some kind of anchor," Ubelhor said. "Everything is fresh and we actually toss our dough.”
Castrillo's is a take-out and delivery restaurant, but patrons who want to dine-in are able to utlilize a beautifully landscaped, gated courtyard ajdacent the bistro. With nighttime lighting and daytime shade the area is perfect for anytime dining. Castrillo's delivers free of charge within three to five miles of the restaurant and offers out-of-area delivery on orders of more than $100.
Now about six months in, the couple is already planning to expand the Castrillo's and open up to five restaurants in other areas of Nashville.
Girardin plans to utilize his background in IT operations to streamline and document the restaurant’s processes, allowing for a future manager to take over the East Nashville store as other stores emerge. He estimates the second store will open in the next 12 to 18 months at an undetermined location.
“The previous owners did a great job of marketing and building the business," Girardin said. "They worked 24/7 to position for the restaurant’s future sale."
Laura Filian, a cashier at Castrillo's, said Girardin and Ubelhor have elicited an atmosphere of unity among their staff of ten and she often visits the restaurant on her days off. They offer employee morale boosting ‘pajama days’ and ‘Hawaiian days,’ when employees are encouraged to dress the part.
“I love it here," Filian said. "Mark and Brandon have created a relaxed family atmosphere and our staff truly operates as one big team.”
1404 McGavock Pike
Nashville, TN 37216
Visit www.castrillos.com to view the full menu and daily specials.