MANUELA MIRABILE’S TANDEM RAGU’: HER WINNING BET
Manuela Mirabile's Tandem Ragù is a bet and a success story. She told us about the genesis of her five businesses, who brought the great tradition of Neapolitan ragù in again
Manuela Mirabile’s dream that tastes like ragù
Every time Manuela Mirabile came back from France, where she used to live until 2013, she found herself making what Italians call “scarpetta” (using the bread to mop up the sauce on your plate). In her case, she loved dipping the bread in the ragù sauce. A Neapolitan ragù, even if the Bolognese one is well known, every part of Italy has its own, and the Neapolitan tradition of o’ rraù (as it is called in dialect) is very rooted.
“That family atmosphere – Mirabile says – for me that I was returning from abroad to Naples, it was a real epiphany. The scarpetta was synonymous with intimacy with my loved ones. And that’s how the Tandem idea came about”. The Tandem Ragù of Naples was born therefore as a specialized place in the house of Manuela’s grandmother: “I asked her why no one had ever thought of a restaurant dedicated only to ragù. And so I decided to open it myself “.
It was Manuela Mirabile’s bet. Moreover, the question asked to her grandmother was pure rhetoric. Manuela knew well why no one had tried a similar thing before. First reason: the ragù seems to be a registered trademark of Bologna. Two (and even more importantly): to make a good ragù it takes a whole night and a 6/8 hour cooking. Not very easy to do in a restaurant kitchen.
But Manuela was still an under 30 in 2013 and started her startup together with friends, all graduates in various fields. A year later, she opened another place. Six years after the first opening, there were five Tandem Ragù in Naples.
But what is the Neapolitan ragù?
The o’ rraù has a century-old tradition. The women prepared it on Friday or Saturday so to be eaten in the following days. “The recipe – says Manuela Mirabile – which may vary from house to house, includes pieces of beef and pork, tomato sauce and tomato concentrate, a little bit of wine and onion. After about seven hours, the taste of meat and tomato will mix giving life to a third flavor, the unique taste of the Neapolitan ragù. O’ rraù“.
Eduardo answers …
Orson Welles, the author of “Citizen Kane” which according to many is the most important film of the twentieth century, thus defined the Neapolitan actor and playwright Eduardo De Filippo: «Eduardo is a real Neapolitan, but there is no actor more mean than him in the movements. He is not satisfied with dominating the scene; he manages to focus the attention of the public on him … And this, with an almost unreal physical economy. There is no equivalent among cinema actors, who are thought to be forced to refrain from the proximity of the camera. But, even when he performs in the largest theater, Eduardo can project himself “in the foreground” also in the gallery. He is the greatest actor in the world».
Well, the “greatest actor in the world,” who according to Welles wasn’t that good for the Cinema, explained what Neapolitan ragù meant for the women of the city. He did it on “Sabato, Domenica e Lunedì.” In this excerpt from the television transposition by Lina Wertmüller and interpreted by Sophia Loren, people argue about the secrets of the recipe, which every Neapolitan woman jealously defends:
The Tandem Ragù of Naples
“We opened the first Tandem Ragù in 2013. The idea – says Manuela Mirabile – was to offer only the scarpetta. After two days, a client came and asked us for a pasta dish with ragù. Oops. I had to ask for the pasta to a neighbor… a year later we had already opened our second business, and she won her bet ». A bet that was won after a year thanks to a call of the Municipality, and today, after six, with five restaurants and a street food restaurant we can tell that it is a triumph. «Yes, we make take-out ragù for anyone who wants it or for those who want a break after an afternoon of study or a long morning of work. Or for those who have just woken up and want to go see Naples soccer team. We call it “the fan’s breakfast”: it is a “cuzzetiello” (sandwich in which the crumb is replaced by a filling, ed) with meatballs and parmesan”. But the Tandem Ragù is not just quick meals and lots of imagination. Those of Manuela are familiar places, where people can feel free to do the scarpetta, a thing that is made only at home because it is considered rude.
The Tandem ragù can be tasted with homemade and typical pasta such as ziti, rigatoni, manfredi with ricotta, gnocchi with provolone cheese. And then again you can eat meat, cheese, and cold cuts or seasonal vegetables. Everything is done with the utmost care and attention, with long preparation and low costs for customers. Each Tandem has its peculiarities. In the one in Via del Sedile del Porto, in the heart of the university area, the ragù is accompanied by the classic Genovese and international meat steaks. In Piazza del Gesù, in addition to the ragù, you can taste the Genovese meat and the Genovese octopus.
But the spirit of the Tandem is perhaps what most attracts, together with o’ rraù, the many guests, foreign and not, who visit Manuela’s places. “On the Tandem, you never go alone – she explains herself – and here you always feel the company, like in a family”. This playful spirit can also be found in the contest “One euro per minute” inspired by “Poverty and Nobility” by Totò. A game that you can still play: you can order spaghetti with meat sauce or ragù and bread: the faster you eat, the less you pay.
And then the ideas for the young, with vodka shots to accompany the ragù: “I have a degree in Russian. Vodka is a dry liqueur and enhances the flavor and the smell of ragù. Even the Russians have approved this formula!”
One of the many winning formulas that have made Manuela Mirabile and her group of friends an example for youth entrepreneurship. “If you have passion and ideas, there is no crisis”. How can you blame her? She bet and won.
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)