From engineer to restaurateur, George DeMeglio jumped the corporate ship to indulge in a lifelong passion for Italian cuisine
STORY: Juliette Cheatham | PHOTO: Stephen Payne
Debuting in Altana’s bustling restaurant scene at an age when many are considering retirement, A Mano owner George DeMeglio is just getting started. With his kids away at college, DeMeglio found himself ready for an extreme career change and hungry for an opportunity to pursue his love of authentic Italian fare.
The product of two first-generation Italian families, DeMeglio was raised with food at the center of his upbringing. “I remember helping my grandmother roll gnocchi,” DeMeglio says of his youth. “Those moments left a huge impression on me. They taught me what good food is.”
A long-time resident of Candler Park, DeMeglio admits that despite having plenty of culinary influences throughout childhood, cooking wasn’t always his first priority as an adult. After years of cheap food and many trips to The Majestic Diner thanks to a demanding work schedule, he decided it was time to learn how to cook—again. “Mark Bittman’s The Minimalist Cooks at Home was my first cookbook, and I absolutely fell in love with creating in the kitchen,” DeMeglio says. “The kids weren’t too upset about my new hobby, either.”
Almost a decade before A Mano’s grand opening in the fall of 2017, DeMeglio was running along Freedom Parkway Trail, feeling unsure of what he wanted the next chapter of his life to look like. “I always passed this little church and would stop a nd say a prayer to my grandparents. This time, something happened in that moment, and there was no doubt in my mind that opening a restaurant was what I wanted to do.”
DeMeglio looks back on his decision to make a drastic and sudden career change so late in the game with serenity. “You have to do what you love,” he says. “You can’t always do it when you want to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a plan. It’s truly amazing that when you believe in something wholeheartedly you attract likeminded people to you who support your dream.”
A Mano, Italian for “by hand,” embodies the spirit of its name not only in its meticulously crafted, handmade pasta and other dishes, but also in its setting, the old bungalow DeMeglio flipped. “I felt that, wherever I was going to build a restaurant, it was important to be an active part of the community myself, so I wanted to live and work in the same space,” DeMeglio says. So he packed his bags and cozied up in the converted living quarters behind the restaurant, where he immediately became involved in Old Fourth Ward organizations and committees, and volunteered to help preserve buildings around the neighborhood.
“I have created A Mano’s canvas, but the staff that fills this place paints it every day,” DeMeglio says. “My job is to get them excited to do what they do…so they can deliver an enchanting experience to our guests and service the community of Atlanta.”