Nearly two months before the grand opening of his first restaurant, Miles Tamboli was putting in his own labor to transform the structural bones of what used to be Fuel Cafe, located on Madison Avenue, into his dream of Tamboli’s Pasta and Pizza.
“So sorry for the mess,” Tamboli said as he welcomed me in to talk about how the restaurant was progressing. With the floor caked in dust from the many renovations, newly painted teal walls, and only a single table in the restaurant; he didn’t hesitate in offering a beverage as he proudly showed the myriad of changes the building was going to receive. He was in great spirits despite the amount of work that still lay ahead.
“My mission for this restaurant is to see people having a good time and feeling satisfied,” Tamboli said as he sat in his unfinished dining room, which was planned to be adjacent to a future bar.
Tamboli’s passion for bringing flavorful and authentic pasta to the Bluff City was inspired by a trip to Italy. Though the average person tends to think of spaghetti as a quick and cheap meal, what Tamboli experienced during his travels made him believe that being budget-conscious didn’t mean you had to settle for storebought. He set out to create an experience of high-quality pasta and Italian cuisine in Memphis that was also affordable.
The first step was to find the perfect pasta recipe. Tamboli went deep into research mode, spending hours calling around to different pasta manufacturers to figure out what could and could not be done in the world of pasta. He experimented with homemade noodles until he landed on something he felt confident in. “I wanted to learn how to do it because why not, you know? So I would be at home and just make pasta over and over again. I just did it maniacally and compulsively until I was making some pretty good pasta,” Tamboli says.
In the days leading up to the long-awaited grand opening, Tamboli invited me back for the soft opening where, along with a few other guests, I got to experience how the restaurant was going to run and offer any feedback.
Photos courtesy of Tamboli’s Instagram.
Without discrediting any dishes on his unique menu, Tamboli confessed that he is most excited for his customers to try the cheese pizza. The flames of the wood oven illuminated the kitchen as fresh, homemade pizza pies were cooked to a crispy, cheesy dream. The trick to eating the mozzarella, ricotta, and Italian-aged cheddar pizza is that it takes two hands. As the cheese melts off of the edges of each slice as it is pulled from the pie, you can see and taste the hard work that Tamboli poured into every decision.
The menu at Tamboli’s lists items that are specifically curated to represent local farms, fresh produce, and homemade ingredients. A seasonal salad and soup sit amongst some of the appetizer choices as well as seasonal vegetables in the entree choices. “I love eggplant parmesan and we may have it, but you won’t see it on our menu when eggplant is not in season,” Tamboli says to emphasize how ingredients are chosen for the menu.
Sustainability is also part of the restaurant’s mission. Tamboli’s has partnered with the Compost Fairy, an organization in Memphis that provides materials and resources for reusing waste to enrich the environment.
Tamboli has an uncommon warmth in his approach to people and manages to make just about everybody feel like family. He wanted to carry that element through to the restaurant, not just with patrons but among the staff, too. “This is my first restaurant job,” says Sumo, a server at Tamboli’s. “Everyone here is so helpful and friendly. Also, Miles is very relatable and down-to-earth.”
Guided by previous work experiences both within and outside of the restaurant industry, Tamboli says it was important to him to provide a healthy workplace. Concrete initiatives are taken at Tamboli’s Pasta and Pizza to create a sustainable and friendly work environment. He is passionate about providing proper living wages and helping workers understand and love what they serve.
The process of bringing Tamobli’s dreams into fruition from selling homemade pasta, tomato sauce, and pesto at the Memphis Farmer’s Market to now having a sit-down restaurant has been a feat for years. Tamboli hopes people will be able to enjoy the restaurant for many more years to come. While they are only open for dinner right now, Tamboli encourages that lunch is on its way to being an option.