Trendsetter to Know: Michael Merendino, Owner of Crust Simply Italian

Name: Michael Merendino 

Instagram: @mikemerendino


Age: 47

Title: Owner 

Married/Single: Married 

Kids: 3 … 17, 16 and a 7 year old

City you live in: Scottsdale 

A typical day in my life includes…  There is never really a typical day, but…and a quick glance of emails by 7 a.m., gym by 8 a.m., behind my desk by 10 a.m. and then come up for air around 2 p.m. where I would drive to 2-3 locations for a stop in and catch up with the team who is there that day. Light lunch and an espresso with Sambuca.  Probably some meetings at the stores and phone calls every time I am in the car.   Home by 6:30 p.m. to have dinner with the family and behind a computer from 8-11 p.m. to recap, organize and get ready to do it all over again. 

I was born… in New York and grew up on Long Island

My favorite thing about Arizona… It is where I met my wife and started a home.  Best accomplishment of my life. 

I’m listening to… Metallica, Elton John, 80’s, Ed Mylett, and so much more…

My family… aside from my everything, are individuals who have so much going for them from a head on their shoulders and street smart to being selfless and aware. They are active, smart, funny, and great little humans.

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… There would be dozens of famous and historic names here but I would go with my father’s mother. A lady who I never met as she passed in Italy when I was an infant.  She has been talked about for many years and pictures only go so far.  

One thing I cannot live without… My team at work.  They hold me together, each of them in their own way.  Sometimes to laugh, to work or just talk about things.  We spend so much time together and I have such an appreciation for them.  This ranges from managers and executives to servers and bartenders that have been with us during the journey.  They have become family.

When I was younger, I wanted to be… successful.  Did not have a path and was all over the place.. Hospitality was the easy choice as I got older.  

I’m inspired by… stories of success of over coming adversity.  There are so many podcasts and stories that make you go “wow!”  The truth is, we are not getting any younger and I want to do so much more, personally, and professionally.  So I would say growth and thinking bigger inspires me and learning from those who have done it.

The person/people who motivate(s) me is/are…  Dennis Mastro.  I have been fortunate enough to share time with him over the years, and to sit and listen to his journey of success is so inspiring.  He is brilliant, a mentor and has been through so many levels and positions in the hospitality industry.   Every time I leave him, I say to myself “Alright, I got work to do.” 

If I could change anything in the world, it would be… Big Question. Hmmm.  I would have to say hunger. It’s always sickening to see the images of kids starving, especially with the waste of food that occurs in this country.  

The perfect day would be… Either in Italy or Spain sitting in a piazza having espresso and an aperitif after a small exquisite lunch.   Just smiling.  

My first job was… Delivering newspapers at 12, but really a bartender at Fuddruckers. I had to tell a white lie about my age to get hired.  Ah the good old days…

My favorite escape… In that piazza in Europe.

My life… Is awesome, is crazy and is full.

I’m currently working on… new projects and next concepts 

Always… push, get better and keep going

Never… procrastinate or listen to others telling you can’t

Favorite Quote…  Never, never, never give up. Winston Churchill 

Biggest Dream… Retire by 55, travel and enjoy for a while, and then get to come back to work NOT as an owner but as part of team who gets to mentor and share the details of what not to do.  

My Pet Peeve(s)… Laziness

Bio-on yourself/company: For the past 16 years, I’ve been a restaurant entrepreneur and truly love what I do. Crust started on Indian Bend and Hayden Rd. in 2007 and since then we have slowly expanded to cocktail bars, pizzerias and our Simply Italian concepts.  Currently we have three Italian restaurants, two pizzerias, two cocktail bars, with a third cocktail bar opening this spring in Scottsdale next to the Crust Simply Italian location.  We are also under construction in Mesa for a three-concept project.  

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