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Francesco Amodeo: “It’s important to honor days off; When you run your own business you become sucked into the daily routine that you forget to enjoy and fully live your life.”

When you run your own business, you become sucked into the daily routine that you forget to enjoy and fully live your life. I would say it’s important to honor days off. I try to take time off from my routine periodically and found that it has definitely helped me to avoid burning out. It’s […]


When you run your own business, you become sucked into the daily routine that you forget to enjoy and fully live your life. I would say it’s important to honor days off. I try to take time off from my routine periodically and found that it has definitely helped me to avoid burning out. It’s important to find a balance between working hard and enjoying everyday life.


I had the pleasure to interview Francesco Amodeo. Francesco is the Presidente of Don Ciccio & Figli and founder of Think Italian LLC. Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Amodeo began his journey in the hospitality industry as a young boy growing up in the small town of Furore, Italy, a quaint, tight-knit hamlet of just over 800 residents. With an extended family supplying the town with its most celebrated chefs, winemakers, and artisanal liqueur makers, Amodeo became an epicure at a young age, and began his life-long love affair with hospitality. Deciding to follow in his family’s footsteps, Amodeo got his first job at the age of 14, working under the mentorship of Marisa Cuomo, one of Italy’s most respected winemakers. He continued his apprenticeship at his uncle’s restaurant in Positano. Uncle Amodeo soon pulled young Francesco behind the cocktail bar, and in that moment, an Amalfi Coast alchemist was born. He had found his true calling in hospitality, and Francesco continued his tutelage at the town’s only resort. At Furore Inn Resort young Amodeo came of age, and received many specialized certifications of his expertise. In 2004, he became a Master of Food and Beverage Management, but not before his certification as a Master Sommelier for the A.I.S. of Napoli, Italy. He is a Master Barman through the A.I.B.E.S. of Salerno too. In the spirit of adventure, Francesco travelled to Washington D.C. in 2005. Seeing its potential as an epicurean capital, he decided to return in February 2006 to make D.C. his home. Francesco became prominent in the evolving hospitality scene, lending his expertise to notable establishments including Butterfield 9, Hook, Café Milano, and Bibiana Osteria Enoteca. But there was something else stirring in his blood. Francesco began to research and experiment with handcrafted liqueurs in his free time. With over a century of family history in the business, at the age of 29, Francesco started Don Ciccio & Figli. His vision: to bring the signature flavors of his hometown back to life, and share the artisanal ‘Rosoli’ with the world.


Thank you so much for joining us Francesco! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I began my journey in the hospitality industry as a young boy growing up in the small town of Furore, Italy, with just over 800 residents. My extended family supplied the town with its most celebrated chefs, winemakers, and artisanal liqueur makers. We also had a long family history of Italian liqueur with recipes dating back to 1883. From bitter Amaro to sweet Limoncello, the family liqueurs would become a part of day-to-day life, the routines that ordain the eternal traditions of southwest Italy. In 2006, I moved to Washington D.C. after seeing its potential as an epicurean capital. I was involved in the hospitality scene and lent my expertise to notable establishments including; Butterfield 9, Hook, Café Milano, and Bibiana Osteria Enoteca. However, there was something else stirring in my blood, and I began to research, and experiment with handcrafted liqueurs in my free time and, at the age of 29, I started Don Ciccio & Figli with a vision to bring the signature flavors of my hometown back to life, and to share the artisanal ‘Rosoli’ with the world.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

The business has been in my family for four generations, including the recipes and the fermentation process. My vision in reviving the business and re-establishing it in America has been a timely process, but I would have to say we ran into issues in terms of government regulation when it came to open a distillery in Washington D.C. where government regulations initially prohibited distilleries.

Thankfully we were able to open in 2012, but it was only in 2015 that we were able to open to the public.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Although governmental regulations set an initial roadblock, I shifted my focus to working on modernizing the existing recipes. When I re-established the business in the United States, I wanted to ensure that we were preserving the exact flavors from the original recipes, while still appealing to today’s market. The idea to restore the business seemed quite challenging but I kept myself motivated by staying true to what I was taught when I was younger and that is simply to never give up.

So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?

Our most recent news is the opening of the new Don Ciccio & Figli distillery in May 2019. The new operation is double the size of our previous location. The Ivy City location will allow us to expand production from around 25,000 cases a year to four times that quantity. Don Ciccio & Figli is already distributing across 37 states (and the District, of course) plus a few international markets. In the coming year, we plan on selling the liqueurs across Europe, including the alcohol-serving Starbucks in Milan, Italy. The Don Ciccio & Figli distillery showcases the cordials and bitter liqueurs that are based on recipes from my family ties to the Amalfi Coast. We plan to utilize our distillery space for cocktail classes and private events (even a wedding recently in the space), as well as a lounging area perfect for summertime.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have learned that mistakes cost money. I say plan as far ahead and as much as possible but be prepared to deal with unexpected and costly detours in your plans.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Although Don Ciccio & Figli made its entrance into the U.S. market in 2012, the start of the company dates back to over 135 years ago. On the beautiful Amalfi Coast in the small town of Atrani, Don Ciccio & Figli was hand-crafted by Vincenzo Amodeo. Today, Don Ciccio & Figli’s motto is “Born in Italy. Reborn in America.” The transition of the business over to D.C took a lot of thought and careful planning. The company has 135 years of family history, which is unique for any business, and it’s amazing to be able to bring that history internationally.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

When you run your own business, you become sucked into the daily routine that you forget to enjoy and fully live your life. I would say it’s important to honor days off. I try to take time off from my routine periodically and found that it has definitely helped me to avoid burning out. It’s important to find a balance between working hard and enjoying everyday life.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Without my business partner and my wife supporting my big and over the top ideas, it would have never happened.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

The D.C. area is my home and is naturally near and dear to my heart, so being able to give back to the local community is the most rewarding. Specifically, I am involved with various school charities, including the school my daughter attends.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit?

  • A friend of mine told me “Dreaming is free, but the hustle is not included” and it has become one of the best pieces of advice I have received.
  • Invest time, money and energy into your product and have faith in your company.
  • In life you have to set goals and every goal is going to be a distance. My advice is to set posts and jump from one post to another. Think of each post as a dream and start with one dream at a time.
  • Harvest what you place in the ground at the end of the day.
  • I often use the Italian phrase “Cazzima” which indirectly translates to describe the fight of never giving up and igniting the fire within.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook: @donciccioefigli

Instagram: @donciccioefigli

Twitter: @doncicciofigli

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