Summer’s end means one thing—Labor Day and barbeques. And this Argentine father-son duo is showing locals how to master it their way, the Argentine asado way (and we know Argentina takes it beef seriously—ranked the #2 country in the world for consuming the most beef per capita). So we’re trusting the experts and letting them teach us how to dominate the grill using an ancient fuel: wood.
Sitting down with meat masters Mario and Leo Graziano, who are Argentinian expats and founders of the multi-destination stomping ground, Graziano’s, we asked them everything there is to know about grilling, how to create the perfect asado, and being recently recognized as Argentine-American Chamber of Commerce’s (AACC) Business Man of the Year.
Mario, tell us about mastering the Argentine asado! MARIO GRAZIANO: The secret to mastering the grill is patience. Patience to allow the wood charcoal to perfectly burn until they become red ambers. At Graziano’s, we prefer to cook over coal ambers rather than open flame. It also takes a great deal of patience and self-discipline to just add salt and cook slowly without touching or flipping the meat—until it’s just right. And it’s very important to use high-quality meat.
A rite of passage in Argentina and a family ritual, where and how did you first teach your son, Leo, about this tradition? Tell us the story. MG: When Leo was around 8 years old, we had the butcher store two blocks from the market, and every Saturday I would tell him to gather wood boxes from the produce store (back then, fruit and veggies used to be packed in very light wood boxes), go home and start building the fire so it was ready by the time I arrived with the meat, to start cooking together.
Leo, learning everything you know about meat, grilling and hard work from your father, what made you open Graziano's? LEO GRAZIANO: Graziano’s originally began in Buenos Aires many years before I was born. In 1962 at the age of 18, my father opened a butcher store inside his family’s convenience market and the concept just took off. The next thing you know, he had eight butcher shops and decided it was time to bring the concept to the U.S. After settling in Miami, we started all over again with a single butcher store, and with the help of my mom, sisters and myself, we built Graziano’s.
Would you say steak, is your most popular item on the menu? Which one? LG: Absolutely. Steak is what we’re known for! The most popular steak on the menu is the Skirt Steak.
How many steaks would you say you sell a day? LG: Between the four restaurants and five markets, we sell on average more than 1,000 portions of high-quality CAB steak.
With Labor Day approaching, what secrets could you give away to our father-son locals looking to master the asado art form? MG: My biggest recommendation is to do it together, with family or friends, and just have fun. Open a bottle of wine, enjoy the process and don’t over think it. The purpose of an asado is to bring the family together while indulging in good food and enjoying each other’s company.
Where do you recommend these duos to pick up ingredients? LG: We have five market locations where you can pick up items and ingredients necessary to make an asado. We sell everything from the Quebracho wood to house-made chimichurri, rare cuts of meats, fresh produce and more. It’s a one-stop shop!
What do you suggest for wine pairings? LG: The perfect pairing for an asado is always a glass of Malbec. My personal favorite is Las Perdices Malbec.
Leo, your father Mario was recently recognized by the Argentine-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) as Business Man of the Year. Tell us more. LG: Mario was recognized for the hard work and contribution he has dedicated to the Argentine and South Florida community over the past 20 years. We were very honored and excited for him to receive this award and look forward to several more accomplishments as Graziano’s continues to expand.
What advice can you give other families looking to enter the Miami culinary scene? LG: The service industry requires a lot of sacrifices. It’s not enough to love how to cook as you have to love all aspects of the business in order to really succeed. The hardest part about working in a family business is that it is a family business. You must learn to respect the experience of the elders and use that knowledge as building blocks.
Last question! What is your favorite father-son memory? LG: My favorite memory with my father is our tradition to grill asado every Saturday during summer. We gather around the fire and listen to our friends tell stories over several glasses of wine and good food.