A Couple of Chefs

IMG_4307FROM ROMANCE TO ROTISSERIE

WRITTEN BY CHRISTINE KIRK | PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF CHRIS HORNADAY PHOTOGRAPHY

Tucked away in an unassuming storefront near a shopping mall, The Rotisserie Shop displays a rustic red sign on the wall with a word inspired by “Charlotte’s Web”: humble. Considering the stellar reputation established in its young life, this concept eatery certainly fits the bill, as passersby might not expect the restaurant to be a culinary showcase of two classically trained chefs from New York.

Owners Carla Geniso and Chris Malfitano not only have training from The Culinary Institute of America and New York Restaurant School, respectively, but they are also married. Intrigued to find two married chefs running a restaurant together, I set out to learn how the make it work on the job, in the kitchen and at home.

Humble Beginnings
The couple met during their externship at the prestigious Westchester Country Club in New York, and didn’t initially partner up on their own.

“They just kind of paired us up together,” Geniso remembered. “One day they told us to chop up a bunch of herbs, so we did that all day. We didn’t talk much.”

“I was more introverted,” explained Malfi tano, a friendly but shy guy who leaves the impression that, if you got him talking, he would wow you with his creativity.

Down to earth and straightforward, Geniso IMG_4709comes across as a pragmatic woman, and when it concerns her talent as a chef, she’d rather show you than tell you.

Despite their balanced personalities, I wondered how two artistic minds, especially being married with children, could work so well in the same kitchen.

“It’s a power struggle constantly!” Geniso laughed. Like any married couple, they have pet peeves about each other. “Carla’s fast, but she’s scatterbrained. She’ll start like 50 projects,” Malfi tano said, while Geniso thinks her husband has a tendency to overfeed. “People are rolling out of here!” she joked.

Despite these little quirks, the couple is successfully realizing their dream together. They’ve smoothed the process by divvying up tasks and focusing on each other’s strong suits.

“I’ll make a lot of the soups, all the stuff for the cold stations, some of the side items,” Geniso said, adding, “And Chris comes up with [most of the specials]; he’s very creative.”

A long relationship, including eight years together before marriage, and shared goals have helped their efforts pan
out. “We’ve been committed to each other since we met, and now we’re working partners … it’s all very tied up,” said the mother of 11-year-old Guiliana and 4-year-old Leo.

Though they each have their own specialties, the menu is a collaborative effort and a collage of their
various influences.

A New Take on RotisserieIMG_6073
There’s plenty of room for both chefs in the creative process, as everything is made in-house with a solid main menu supplemented by an evolving array of specials. Daily specials, like the bacon-jalapeño mac and cheese with pimento ranch or the Spanish chicken panini, keep customers coming back to see what’s new. The desire to stand out among the typical Busbee Parkway fare and offer something more palatable than franchise food has worked very well so far. “Once they try the specials or try the chicken, [they realize] it’s really different from anything they’ve ever had,” Malfitano said.

My taste buds agreed. The shop hits the target with their signature rotisserie chicken — paired with the Cayenne Buffalo Hot sauce, it’s a step above the competition and downright tasty. As a side, I chose the jalapeño coleslaw, which harmoniously balanced the spiciness of the pepper and the creamy base. Being a Southern girl, I couldn’t resist trying their collard greens, either. I was surprised to find that these two Italian New Yorkers not only make delicious greens, but some that might rival what I’ve had from many of the soul-food restaurants in Atlanta.

Perhaps part of what makes the food so impressive, besides their talent, is the care in selecting ingredients with environmental sustainability in mind. Since opening in 2013, The Rotisserie Shop put a focus on sourcing local,
natural meats and produce, and making everything in-house. Chickens come from Gainesville, and the shrimp and grits are made with Georgia-grown shrimp, which make it easy to see why this dish is a favorite.

Their Italian heritage also has influence on their technique, as they use San Marzano tomatoes and makes their
own mozzarella. Geniso’s international background from living overseas and traveling at a young age is reflected on the menu, as well as Malfitano’s passion for the Southern cuisine that relocated the couple to Atlanta. Proof is the Georgia shrimp, crispy cheddar grit cake and Andouille sausage that comes together in a beurre blanc infused with tomatoes and creates an Italian-French-Southern mash-up of culinary wit.

One thing is for sure: whether you come to The Rotisserie Shop for the chicken and waffles, the mezze wrap or the daily special, your appetite will thank you. And that is the main impression this culinary couple hopes customers have.

“We also want them to trust us, as far as what we’re doing,” Geniso elaborated. “They’ll try the special, try something they normally weren’t going to enjoy or ever order. So then they’re like, ‘Well, whatever this place makes, it’s good.’ I think that speaks a lot for what we do.” From their humble surroundings, this couple is rightly proud of the foodie haven they’ve created.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:
2615 George Busbee Parkway, Kennesaw
678-540-8244
therotisserieshop.com