Once upon a time, in the small town of Oxford and the kitchen of City Grocery, their eyes met across a crowded kitchen and a tiny spark was ignited between a chef named Nick Reppond and Angie Sicurezza, the newly hired assistant of John Currence. “I’ll always remember that day,” said Reppond.
Seven years later and two years into their marriage, Reppond and Sicurezza are piggybacking off of their successful catering company A&N Catering to introduce Grit in Taylor, Mississippi. “We weren’t really planning on opening a restaurant, but we needed kitchen space because the catering business had grown so much,” said Reppond.
A&N Catering was launched last year, shortly after Angie and Nick were married, as a way to start a family business that showcased their passion for food and hospitality. Originally located in Batesville, Sicurezza and Reppond had plans to tap into Batesville and the Delta with their catering business.
“We thought there was already a lot of competition in Oxford, so we thought there may not be a place for us,” said Sicurezza. “But that wasn’t the case; there’s a lot of business to go around in Oxford.”
The couple then started looking for space that would house a kitchen and small café in Oxford, but everything was out of their price range. “We looked at building something out of our home in Taylor, but it didn’t make sense,” said Sicurezza. “Campbell McCool, the developer at Plein Air, wanted us to open something here. Once we found out there was resort status, it evolved into the ability to have a bar and the menu grew from there. It’s been beautiful watching Nick go through the creative process of creating his menu.”
Sicurezza said that starting with A&N Catering gave the couple a financial cushion and the ability to get the restaurant going while still running the catering business, which operates out of the Grit kitchen but has kept the A&N name.
What’s in a Name?
“We spent a good portion of four months trying to choose a name for the restaurant,” Reppond said. “We were on the train in New York and Angie looked up what the word ‘Grit’ actually meant in personality traits and it was perfect for the two of us because we are very driven people. It just fit. It also fit the restaurant and the look we were going for, the food, and what we expect from our staff.”
An Unexpected Menu
Nick said he aims to keep the menu at Grit fresh and exciting with an attitude of ‘Why not?’ We didn’t want to limit ourselves to any one genre of food,” he said. “We wanted to source things locally and use that as the driving force of the menu. Chef Heath Johnson and I are working closely with one another to develop recipes and menu items that speak to our hearts and don’t limit themselves to one genre. You may see collard greens and smoked chicken at lunch and then for dinner find a scallop special with spices that bring a Creole influence.”
Current favorites at Grit include the tomato pie, The Peeples Farm chargrilled chicken, Homeplace Pastures pork chop, meatloaf with smoked tomato gravy, brisket “munster” grilled cheese, and the burger with housemade ketchup, mustard and pickles.
A Nod to John Currence
Sicurezza and Reppond both come from a long background with City Grocery Restaurant Group’s John Currence, who they say had a big influence on where they are now.
“I started as John Currence’s assistant and my position grew as the company grew. Having the opportunity to open different concepts with him and being there with a restaurant in its infancy helped me understand the business aspect of opening and running a restaurant,” Sicurezza said. “I learned so much about southern culture working and traveling with him; I’ll be eternally grateful for the opportunity. Nothing I’ve done before compared to the experience I had working with him.”
“A large part of the inspiration for Grit is that John took a risk, too. He was a young chef who wanted to open his own place. That was a huge part of the inspiration I got from him, was that if you have a dream, chase it and see it through,” Reppond said. “He also doesn’t like to paint himself into a corner with food. He takes inspiration from foods and creates his own dishes. Food is always evolving, and as a chef you’re always learning. John taught me that you can’t ever learn too much; if you feel like you know everything, then you’re done. You have to remain teachable. He also knows the names of his employees and takes care of them, which is something I aspire to do. I try to teach my staff what I know and be involved in their lives because it doesn’t just stop here. I’d like them to look back and be able to say that I taught them a lot.”
Off the Square
With Grit located roughly 15 minutes from Oxford, Reppond and Sicurezza acknowledge that Grit’s lunch crowds are lighter than those on the Oxford Square. However, they’re wooing supportive regulars in Taylor with attractive lunch pricing, and Sicurezza said they’ve been seeing familiar faces from Oxford show up for dinner and brunch.
“Taylor has such a great, eclectic mix of people that we love,” said Reppond. “We’re hoping that by opening in Taylor it will inspire others to open businesses such as a bank and a gas station that would make our quaint little town complete.”
Grit is located at 2 Town Square Lane in Taylor, Mississippi, and open Tuesday to Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Wednesday 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. The restaurant offers full catering through A&N Catering. To find out more , visit GritTaylor.com or call 662-638-3922.
Liz Barrett Foster is the EatingOxford editor for HottyToddy.com, an award-winning business journalist and author of the recently published Pizza: A Slice of American History. Liz ran the popular restaurant information site EatingOxford.com from 2009 to 2015. Liz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.