A pair of college buddies from Italy have taken their love for a Mexican staple, the humble avocado, and grown it into a burgeoning restaurant empire in the Big Apple.
Alessandro Biggi and Francesco Brachetti, who had never even tried the fruit (yes, fruit) when they met nearly two decades ago at a university in Milan, recently opened their fourth – and largest – Avocaderia in the city.
“Our dream was to be on Fifth Avenue by the Empire State Building and the Flatiron Building,” Biggi, 35, told Side Dish.
However, the pair didn’t dream about opening restaurants after they graduated from business school. They both took tech jobs.
Biggi landed in Seattle, where he would scour the city looking for a healthy but filling meal that was also affordable. He had never even tried an avocado until he had it on toast at Cafe Gitane during a visit to New York around 2010.
“I was at JPMorgan back then and I thought, ‘Wow. This is so cool. It was so great.’ Avocados weren’t really a thing in Italy back then,” Biggi said.
Meanwhile, Brachetti moved to Mexico, where avocados are served in everything from guacamole to fish tacos.
The two — who stayed best friends since their business school days in Milan — started talking about opening restaurants together in 2016. First, by phone. Then in person. Brachetti would visit Biggi in Seattle, Biggi would visit Brachetti in Mexico, and then the two would meet in New York to scout locations.
In 2017, they quit their jobs and moved to New York to open their all-avocado-themed concept in a 550-foot-space in Brooklyn’s Industry City that was takeout only.
Within five months, the two paisans landed on “Shark Tank,” where hosts Mark Cuban and Barbara Corcoran offered them $400,000 to help grow their plan to spread avocados on toast throughout the city.
But the two decided against swimming with the Sharks.
“We would have had to give up too much control, so we decided to grow it ourselves,” Biggi said. “We started with $150,000. It was the two of us plus some friends, and we got small investments from friends and family over the years.”
They launched a second branch in Chelsea in 2018 and another in Midtown East in 2021 during the pandemic.
Last month, the pair opened their largest Avocaderia in NoMad at 245 Fifth Ave. — a 2,000-square-foot space that seats 36 on the ground floor and mezzanine. The stylish spot a few blocks from Madison Square Park features Moroccan tiles and art by Italian designer Claudia Bessi.
Avocaderia is in the category of a healthy, inexpensive, seasonally-inspired casual dining spot. Almost everything on the menu is $15 or under.
Aside from avocados, there are healthy options like salmon and burrata cheese.
The concept incorporates “our Italian food philosophy,” Brachetti said, which is all about simplicity.
“It’s the best healthy fat and comfort food that you can find that is really good for you and makes you feel full,” Biggi chimed in.
The most popular dish is the Portobello Road Bowl, which combines kale, brown rice, freebird chicken, portobello mushrooms, avocado, hummus, chipotle mayo, and cashew parmesan.
“It’s very simple. We don’t over season or overdress the preparation. We just use high quality ingredients to make our salads and bowls more special,” Brachetti said.
The private company’s revenue was around $2.5 million last year, and they now have 45 employees, Biggi said.
Two more locations are slated to open in New York later this year. They hope to expand to New Jersey, Boston and Philadelphia, Biggi added.
“We will stay close and then grow. It’s an opportunity to possibly bring this type of food across the country,” Biggi said.
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