Born in Sicily, Manny Augello moved to the U.S. at age 8. By age 9, he was working in his father’s restaurant on the Northshore in Louisiana. “I was ‘drafted’ into the restaurant business,” he says with a chuckle.
His sister, Rosie, was recruited later into the family tradition. The siblings’ father was a chef for more than 40 years, as was their paternal grandfather. Their mother’s side consisted of farmers as well as chefs. “We had the best of both worlds growing up,” Manny shares.
After high school, Manny ended up at Northwestern University in Natchitoches, where he graduated in criminal justice. “I had kind of a teenage crisis where I wanted to be as far away from the restaurant business as possible,” he confides. But, his roots proved stronger, and he was lured back into the kitchen, where he honed his skills as a chef.
In 2010, he moved to Lafayette, where his then-wife, Abi Broussard, was reared. He fell in love with the culture, and never looked back. At the time, restaurateur Steve Santillo discovered his talent, and hired him as sous chef at Jolie’s. Two years later, Manny moved up to head chef. By then, he had started working on a project with prepared foods, called Bread & Circus. “We were preparing foods how they should be properly prepared – with locally-sourced ingredients and no preservatives,” he said.
When the market at the Horse Farm first started, the Augellos became charter members, hawking their unique home-made canned products. “We started in an apartment, where we jarred up provisions, then carried them to the Horse Farm,” Rosie says. Within 30 minutes of their debut, the Augellos had sold out of their wares.
The demand for Bread & Circus’ creative provisions, like General Lee – pickled mirlitons with tasso, or “porky pickles” -- French onion jam, and smoked and cured meats grew to the point where the Augellos expanded to a brick-and-mortar location. In 2013, Bread & Circus Provisions officially launched at 258 Bendel Road.
Three years later, Manny decided to revamp the entire concept, going back to Southern Italian and Sicilian cuisine he remembered. The restaurant held a Kickstarter fundraiser to purchase a wood-fired oven from Sicily. The 3,400-pound oven, named “Ben” after the top-donor’s grandson, took a month to get to Lafayette by ship. But, it was worth the wait.
Today, Bread & Circus’ authentic Neapolitan-style pizzas are among the most popular items on the menu. The house-made crust is cooked in the oven at 800 to 900 degrees, producing an airy, crispy crust topped with the freshest seasonal ingredients. At Happy Hour, offered Wednesday from 4 p.m. ‘til and Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. - 6 p.m., you can get a whole pie for half price, along with drink specials.
The Italian-inspired menu offers a host of creative “Spitzi” (shared snacks), including Angry Meatballs (aged veal, pork and beef with wood-roasted peppers, onions, white arrabiata and parmesan) and Devil (deviled eggs with chix-fried boiled peanuts). Served with a choice of bianca (white), rossa (red) or con olio (olive oil), the pizzas are creative and fun, like Angry Pie (fennel pork sausage, peppers and onions in a spicy salsa bianca, mozzarella, garlic and peperoncino herb oil and parmesan) and Bee Sting (garlic and peperoncino marinara, sopressata salami, mozzarella and local honey).
For dessert, pastry Chef Molly Deshotels whips up amazing concoctions like Tripe Chocolate Cake, Tiramisu and Cannoli. You can pair these with the chef’s personal stash of Limoncello, Grappa or La Mosca (sambuca with espresso beans). Chef Deshotels also offers her sweets and breads at the Horse Farm on Saturdays.
On Saturdays, brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with pass-arounds such as Chicken Skins and Bounuts (boudin-stuffed donuts), mains like Eggplant Napoleon and the famous Breakfast Club Lucy – house-ground cheddar-stuffed beef patty, caramelized onion mayo, bibb lettuce, tomato and bacon jam on a brioche bun served with homemade chips.
Late night on Saturdays from 10 p.m. ‘til, Manny lets his chefs go “crazy” in the kitchen and serve their own creations at a special price. The music gets turned up, and the line starts forming at the counter for the surprise menu. “Sometimes we don’t know until two hours before what will end up on the menu,” Manny reveals.
Manny gives credit to his staff for Bread & Circus’ success. “They are the most passionate people I’ve ever worked with,” he says. “I enjoy using their other talents, like music and decorating, to make Bread & Circus better.”