by Victoria Hanson.
The cobblestone archway frames the inset glass windows and the purple strand door. Claudio Matteucci transports tables and chairs outside the storefront for guests to enjoy the fresh summer night away from the heat of the kitchen.
Claudio and his wife bring a new flavor to Cagli. Claudio says, “I decided to play the cards I was dealt,” after the factory he worked at closed.
With his wife, Claudio opened Marrakech Kebab in December 2013. Claudio, a native from the Marche region, extensively researched other kebab shops to discover vendors, flavor profiles, and distributors. These are the ingredients that contribute to his successful menu today.
Tucked quietly on the corner, away from the main buzz of the piazza, down the street from the old art school, Marrakech Kebab is a newly uncovered gem. The small, rectangular, flashing neon sign and the simple vertical menu on the left storefront window are markers of the up-and-coming restaurant. Claudio is often seen at the outside plastic green table, waiting to greet hungry patrons.
Inside, the warm red and mustard yellow walls create a welcoming atmosphere. The small single six-sided mirrors form a larger image reflecting the kitchen and diners roaming the store. A small shelf lines the top half of the back wall carrying a hookah, an elephant with a raised trunk, and other vases, establishing a distinct environment. Diners see Marrakech Kebab as the new kid on the block.
Kebabs typically are made from lamb roasted on a vertical rotisserie; however, Marrakech Kebab takes a different spin and uses turkey. Shaved from the top down, the crispy, thin, small bites are dressed in a variety of fresh vegetables including light lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and pungent onions. Next, sauces slowly topple over the mountain of food, slopping over the soft pita or flat wrap. Flavors such as ketchup, mayonnaise, or a Greek yogurt sauce, break away from traditional Italian tastes. Neatly sandwiched inside a pita or embraced by a wrap, kebabs make the perfect handheld meal.
In addition, vegetarians can find appealing food. Falafel, often composed of chickpeas or fava beans, is deep fried before being outfitted in a similar way as the meat kebabs. The thick, crispy outside protects a softer center ready to be accompanied with the same fresh vegetables and flavor-enhancing sauce.
Every handmade piece is carefully crafted to each customer’s palette. Guests peer curiously through the glass overlooking the vegetable bins, observing the makings of the new cuisine.
Diners can expect a surprisingly flavorful bite when they eat the juicy morsels. Claudio checks in on each customer, making sure they are enjoying their meal. Eager to continue perfecting his craft, Claudio always welcomes feedback from the guests.
Patrons experience the multitude of flavors swirled together and find what best suits them. “I prefer the flat pita bread because it keeps the original flavors,” says Christian Blasi Toccaceli, a weekly visitor. Pulling out his stamp card, showcasing two marked squares, Christian boasts he is working to earn a free dish, with only seven more kebabs to go.
Alessio Luchetti enjoys the tranquil, quiet environment, which he describes as “effective, welcoming service.” Often, Claudio intermingles with diners because he appreciates their company and enjoys the experience. Stressing the community-like environment, Claudio delivers spectacular guest service, which ensures dinners get the most from their visit. This informal atmosphere makes the restaurant unique.
The ambiance of the restaurant varies based on the times guests arrive. After pausa, customers can experience a laid back, low-key environment and grab a snack as the town slowly awakens. Gradually as the evening emerges, the store transforms into a favorite spot to enjoy kebabs and a cold beverage. Later, music plays through the speakers and creates a lively scene. Claudio is willing to stay open as late as needed, offering visitors late night snacks.
With no advertising, Claudio relies on referrals for business. An increase in business shows the food is good, the Cagliesi are embracing kebabs, and that Claudio is building relationships.
Besides a positive, friendly personality and delicious food, Claudio has faith his business will continue to grow. “It is important to have patience because every day gets better,” Claudio says as he genuinely smiles and light-heartedly winks with his big, brown left eye. Claudio believes in his food, his diners and his town.