Michael and Lauren Cirafesi are the owners of OMBRA Cucina Rustica in The Village at Wexford. They are pictured here in their restaurant with their sons (from left to right): Paul, Kurdt, Tim, David, Laer and Salvatore.
VIVA LA FAMIGLIA!
For Lauren and Michael Cirafesi, running their award-winning restaurant OMBRA is all about family. And for them, family includes not only their six sons, but also their staff and guests.
“For the past 15 years I have opened my arms to many local residents and treated them as if they were truly my family. Most of our local customers are not known to us as ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ but as ‘Aunt’ and ‘Uncle.’ Our customers are truly extended family members to us,” Michael said.
He is the chef, sommelier, and general manager. Lauren runs the financial, marketing, and human resources side of the business and works in the restaurant when she can.
OMBRA Cucina Rustica has received accolades as a top choice for fine Italian dining on Hilton Head Island since opening in 2012. The restaurant continues to draw in a constant stream of repeat and new customers. The dinner menu, in the classic Italian tradition, consists of four courses: antipasti, primi, secondi, and pasticceria.
The award-wining wine list is arranged by varietal and geographical region with a focus on esoteric Italian wines, and also includes eclectic domestic and international selections.
“The wait staff is well-trained in the art of wine and food pairing and selecting just the right wine to compliment the meal is truly an essential part of the experience,” said Lauren.
Michael has been a pioneer in the movement of showcasing Italian wines on the island - part obsession and part passion for him.
Chef Cirafesi shares his wisdom on owning a restaurant based on his 27 years of experience: “Passion - without it you will go nowhere. Drive - if you are not driven to be successful it will never happen. Customer relations - at the end of the day the customer is what truly makes the restaurant a success. Without your customers there is no restaurant.”
Jesse Blanco, host of “Eat It and Like It”, a popular television show featuring dining in the Southeast, says: “Not only is this the best traditional Italian in the area, but a good number of islanders believe this is one of the best overall restaurant on Hilton Head Island. Yes, it is that good. Chef/Owner Michael Cirafesi is the ultimate host as well.” OMBRA was awarded “Best Italian” by Blanco in 2016 and “Best Chef” for the past five years by Hilton Head Monthly readers.
“The key to having a professional staff is leadership, stability, and respect for your employees. Just because we are in the food and beverage business doesn’t mean that this is not a professional or stable job. We are very selective about who we hire and most of our employees have families to support giving them the drive to be professional and courteous to our customers.” Diners will also be greeted occasionally at the front door by the couple’s two teenage sons, Kurdt and Laer, who host.
How does Chef Michael Cirafesi enjoy spending time between running OMBRA and catching forty winks? “Going to the beach with my beautiful wife and our six boys!” he said, with a twinkle in his eye.