Fast and Fresh Food
By Samantha McCormick | Photography by Steven J. Pallone
Francesc and Luciana Mari — the dynamic duo behind downtown Syracuse’s Prontofresh — are the perfect culinary couple.
The husband and wife team use local produce to craft panini, salads, wraps, sandwiches and more, and proudly serve coffee from their downtown business neighbor, Recess Coffee.
Francesc, a chef classically trained in Barcelona, Spain, had spent years working long hours, including evenings, weekends and holidays, Luciana said.
“I wanted to combine his expertise and passion for food with my willingness to get in the game,” she said.
The two met at Keen’s Steakhouse in midtown Manhattan. Luciana worked in the front of the house, and Francesc in the kitchen. After years of working together, they’ve mastered what they call the “dance of a lunch rush.” Luciana was particularly inspired to find a healthy work-life balance, something oftentimes missing in the restaurant industry.
Their main goal was to open an establishment that would afford them the privilege of making it home for dinner every night. They started looking for the perfect restaurant in the perfect location, and, in 2014, hit the jackpot when they bought the small eatery, Prontofresh, from Bull & Bear owner, Mark Bullis. Not only does the restaurant attract a fair amount of walk-in traffic from downtown locals and newcomers alike, but it also offers catering and delivery.
“We love interacting with our customers,” Luciana said. “We have a great group of regulars, and it’s nice to get to know the people that we share our community with. It certainly makes the day more fun.”
Try the harvest salad — complete with mixed greens, apples, craisins, crumbled bleu cheese, walnuts and sunflower seeds — paired with one of the restaurant’s daily soups.
With Prontofresh open for breakfast and lunch, it’s the perfect fit for the Mari family. Of course, learning to draw that life-work line is part of the balancing act, as well.
“It’s harder to turn off work when you’re home,” Luciana explained. “We try to steer clear of restaurant talk during family time.”
When the day is done and the panini presses are unplugged, the couple goes home to their No. 1 priority — their family.
“Hands down, our children are our inspiration,” Luciana said. “They know we both work hard to provide a life that is rich in experiences, family, friends and time with their parents. It’s a struggle to balance it all, but I think we do a pretty good job.” SWM
Prontofresh is located at 133 E. Water St., in downtown Syracuse’s Hanover Square. The restaurant is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit prontofreshcny.com or facebook.com/Prontofresh.