(RestaurantNews.com) On Tuesday, September 27, 2022, the Georgia Restaurant Association (GRA) announced the winners of their Restaurant Association Crystal of Excellence (GRACE) Awards. All finalists are peer-nominated, ensuring the most deserving in the industry are recognized. Winners are chosen by the GRACE Academy, comprised of former GRACE finalists and honorees as well as current GRA Board members.
Casa Nuova Italian Restaurant owners took home two of these prestigious awards, including Restaurant Manager of the Year (Pepe Fundora) and the Hall of Fame award (the late Tony Fondora):
Restaurant Manager of the Year Jose “Pepe” Fundora
2022’s Restaurant Manager of the Year attributes his love of hospitality to his parents while growing up in the restaurant business. Having worked in the industry for 24 years, he is the co-owner of his family’s restaurant as well as a certified sommelier. He believes that nothing is impossible through hard work and by taking risks, you will see outcomes. Such is true with serving guests with grace and a smile as they choose to return time and again to dine and celebrate special occasions.
Pepe is also owner of Cork & Glass Wine Shop. Pepe is accredited through The Court of Master Sommeliers (Level 1 in 2016; Level 2 Certified Sommelier in 2018) and is currently studying to become an Advanced Sommelier (Level 3) and eventually will finish at Master Sommelier (Level 4) in the future. Pepe works to bring his passion of wine to others with the idea of “Making Wine Accessible”.
Hall of Fame – Mario Antonio “Tony” Fundora
The GRACE Academy is honored to include Tony Fundora in the GRACE Awards Hall of Fame posthumously. Fundora left a legacy of hospitality and community service in the Atlanta metro food scene. Originally immigrating from Cuba in 1962, he opened numerous restaurants with the love of his life and wife Maria at his side. In 1998, they built their dream restaurant Casa Nuova Italian Restaurant in Alpharetta. Fundora spread his love for food by sharing it with the community. His passion for fresh food inspired him to grow his own fruits, vegetables, and flowers on his farm in North Fulton, which he loved sharing with everyone that came to the restaurant. He would say “I am not better than anyone else as they are no better than me. And everyone in this world deserves respect and kindness.”
About the GRA: The GRA’s mission is to serve as the voice for Georgia’s Restaurants in Advocacy, Education and Awareness. The GRA is sanctioned by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to operate Georgia’s only not-for-profit representing the state’s foodservice industry. From large chains to start-ups, the GRA helps make Georgia a better place for restaurants to do business and helps make restaurants better for Georgia. For more information, visit garestaurants.org.
The GRACE Awards Gala, an inclusive event honoring those who have made outstanding contributions to Georgia’s restaurant industry, took place at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and awarded Restaurateur of the Year, Industry Partner of the Year, Hospitality Hero of the Year (formerly Distinguished Service), Restaurant Manager of the Year, Restaurant Employee of the Year and ProStart® Student of the Year. New to 2022, the GRA added Restaurateur Rookie of the Year and the GRA Hall of Fame as well as a new category nominated and voted on by the Georgia restaurant community – “Georgia On My Mind” People’s Choice Awards.
“While Georgia’s restaurants are still recovering from the pandemic, the GRACE Awards Gala is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the incredible individuals and companies that created a more hospitable and familiar world during one of the most challenging periods in recent memory,” said Karen Bremer, President + CEO of the Georgia Restaurant Association. “Our industry epitomizes resilience.”
For more information, visit garestaurants.org/grace.
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