Rise N Shine Owner Plans New Italian Restaurant, Talks Expanding Current Business
When she was only 14, Danielle Mercuri started working in the restaurant business. And after working in an office for a few years, she realized she wasn’t cut out to sit at a desk. When she found herself unemployed with three children to raise, Mercuri decided to become a waitress at Rise N Shine.
Now, eight years later, she owns the popular brunch spot, as well as Loded, an unorthodox burger shop. She is also partnering with local entrepreneur Adam Weitsman to create an Italian restaurant located in Carrier Circle that will open in the fall.
The menu will be just as unique as her other two restaurants, only with classic, old-school Italian taste, she said. The ambience inside will make dining out a complete experience, she said.
“It’s super upscale,” Mercuri said, “and it’s going to be a place you’ve never seen here in Syracuse.”
She recruited Filippo Di Paola, a native of northern Italy who has lived in the United States for seven years, as chef of the new restaurant. The taste and flavors will be authentic to Di Paola’s homeland, but they will be prepared “our way,” Mercuri said, which means more original and unexpected combinations in dishes.
During her four years as a waitress at Rise N Shine, Mercuri became particularly close to Peter Henessey, the owner at the time. And they learned from each other — he taught her how to cook in a standard kitchen, while she taught him marketing tactics to improve business, she said.
Some time later, Hennessey was diagnosed with leukemia. While in the hospital, he asked Mercuri to take over the restaurant. Although she renovated the building and changed the menu, she wanted to keep a part of Pete present in the business.
“His homemade fries are literally the same as they are now,” she said. “I never changed the recipe.”
In other respects, Mercuri designed the small restaurant in its own way. From traditional eggs and pancakes to extravagant milkshakes and flights of flavored pancakes, she has transformed the quaint breakfast, originally located on Thompson Road in DeWitt, into a crowded restaurant with long queues for tables.
With sales steadily increasing by an average of 30% a year, the restaurant’s small building couldn’t keep up with demand, according to Mercuri. She decided to move Rise N Shine to Westcott Street with a modern makeover.
But Mercuri kept the old Rise N Shine building. Last year, she renovated it into Loded. She built the ’90s-themed burger joint to create income and jobs during the pandemic, and it took off.
A second Loded location is already in the works, though Mercuri is not yet disclosing when and where. In addition to her ongoing Italian restaurant, she wants to open more Rise N Shine locations throughout the East Coast, and possibly even franchise Loded in the next few years.
His two current restaurants are particularly known for their bizarre mashups, including bulgogi toppings on hot dogs, garbage plates on burgers, pork belly benny and curly onions stacked on poached eggs and English muffins . And the culinary creativity even extends to sauces — Rise N Shine dips its waffle fries in Cinnamon Toast Crunch grain butter.
Al Ferenti, the district general manager of both restaurants, will focus on the new Italian restaurant after opening. Mercuri’s hands-on approach holds great promise for expansion, said Ferenti, who is now one of about 100 workers.
“I know this business will grow. I know it’s going to grow fast, (and) I know it’s going to grow,” Ferenti said.
Mercuri has taken the restaurant industry by storm with its exotic dishes and entrepreneurial spirit, and won the admiration of its staff in the process. But as a woman, she says, she hasn’t always had that kind of support.
“It’s hard being a woman in the industry, having men under you and how they feel about working for a woman,” Mercuri said. “I’ve had quite a few who couldn’t stand me being their boss.”
Aside from the new chef and Italian cuisine, Mercuri won’t reveal much about the unopened restaurant, including the name. But expect to hear more about its latest restoration attempt in the coming months, she said.
“Three is just the start,” Ferenti said.
Published on September 4, 2022 at 7:13 p.m.