By Kristine Cannon
Pasta Brioni owner and Executive Chef Michael Siggins vividly remembers the March day he and his Coyotes Curling Club won the 2019 Club National Championships in Lakeville, Minnesota.
“The last few times I went out of town for curling, my family tried to die,” Siggins says.
On day five of the nine-day competition, he received a call from his wife, Ashley, who told him their 15-month-old daughter was in the hospital with the A and B flu, pneumonia and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.
The Coyotes Curling Club was in first place thus far, so Siggins was ready to hop on a flight back home.
“I was about to go to the airport, but my wife called and said, ‘You get your (butt) back there and win this. You guys have a chance to win, and you can’t do anything from here,’” Siggins recalls.
So, he stayed, and they won.
“I got off the ice after I won and first thing I did was call my wife,” Siggins recalls. “She picks up the phone, she’s crying, and I (said), ‘What’s the matter with Nora?’” to which Ashley, who was watching a live-stream of the competition, responded, “You guys won! I can’t believe it.”
Much like shuffleboard, curling is a sport where two teams of four players send eight different 45-pound stones down a 150-foot sheet of ice toward a 12-foot diameter circular scoring zone called the “house.”
Siggins and the rest of his curling team will continue to train and practice for upcoming competitions as they continue to make their way to the 2021 Olympic curling trials, their ultimate goal.
All the while, Siggins owns and operates two restaurants, the aforementioned Pasta Brioni and NPX – A Neighborhood Joint, which opened in July 2018 in North Phoenix.
His journey to owning Pasta Brioni was as full of twists and turns as his road to winning the Club National Championships, too.
Siggins’ restaurant career started as he attended ASU, pursuing a degree in economics.
He held various kitchen jobs, but it was his position as executive chef at Starfire Golf Club in the early aughts that opened the door to what would become a new career path for Siggins: accounting.
“The CFO and I were fairly friendly and I said (to him) I’m getting this degree in economics and I have no idea what I want to do,” Siggins recalls.
He asked to shadow the CFO, but the CFO did Siggins one better: He offered him a position in Starfire’s accounting department.
Siggins enjoyed accounting so much, he then started his own accounting firm one year later — a firm called Martini Management catered specifically to restaurants, as Siggins didn’t want to leave the restaurant industry completely.
As fate would have it, his first client was Pasta Brioni.
“The first night I worked here, I was taking notes on a legal pad, and I meet with them the following morning and (the owner said), ‘Alright, let me see your notes.’ He grabbed the notebook, throws it in the garbage and says, ‘Just count the money. I’ll take care of the food,’” Siggins says with a laugh.
Siggins became a part-owner of Pasta Brioni in 2006 — the same year he discovered curling while watching the Olympics from his couch, sick — and purchased the restaurant in 2013, prompting him to sell Martini Management.
Over the past six years of owning Pasta Brioni, Siggins has gradually made changes to the menu, as well as improvements to the 65-year-old building.
“Since I took over, there’s been one big project every summer, trying to work on major renovations. Last year was the patio, which is gorgeous now,” he says.
Siggins pushed this summer’s project, adding sliding glass doors leading to the patio, to next summer.
Regarding the menu, Siggins made the executive decision to make everything in-house.
“We make literally everything, soup to nuts, inside of these walls, including pasta,” he says. “We started making all our own pasta and all our own raviolis about three-and-a-half years ago. And that’s brought things to a different level because nobody else does that.”
Siggins updates the menu five to six times a year, and the menu features new chef’s specials every night.
“This list of different specials that we’ve done is almost 1,000 now,” he says. “I let my chefs have a lot of room to play, if they want to make something up.”
More recently, Siggins added soft shell crab and halibut, among other seasonal specials, to the summer menu.
However, he assures many recipes are still very similar to Brioni’s recipes from when the restaurant opened in 1993.
“It’s Brioni’s recipes from Jersey from 50 years ago, and you don’t want to screw with it too much,” he says, adding, “Everything’s got my spin on it now.”
But at NPX, the menu is purely comprised of Siggins’ — and his wife Ashley’s — recipes.
“NPX is 100% ideas that I’ve had brewing over the years,” he says. “I have this Word Doc on my computer that I’ve had for 20 years, and every time I go somewhere and try something I think is unique or I think is good, I write it down there.”
That Word Doc is about 15 pages long.
One NPX menu item, fried Spam Benedict, was even inspired by his curling team.
While on a curling trip in Denver, Siggins made Spam eggs benedict at the request of one of his teammates — and the breakfast dish was a hit, much to Siggins’ surprise.
“I probably haven’t had Spam in — I don’t even know how many years. I was like, ‘That sounds gross; I’ll just get some regular ham,’” he says with a laugh.
Having frequented his fair share of sports bars, Siggins’ goal with NPX was to not only serve “fancy bar food,” but also, and more importantly, create a neighborhood atmosphere.
“It’s a sports bar with a family twist to it,” he says, adding that he was inspired by his former client’s restaurant, Arcadia Tavern. “I really marveled at the way that they were able to plug themselves into the community.”
And Siggins has done just that; every week this past school year, he fed the Horizon High School and Pinnacle High School football teams and soccer teams.
“Those 15-year-old football players can eat, let me tell you,” he says.
In the meantime, NPX offers brunch on the weekends and continues to play sporting events on its 195-inch TV, among other specials and events. ν