Culaccino’s Chef Frank Pullara and His Culinary Imprint on Main Street

The northeast side of downtown Franklin has expanded to include Harpeth Square, a vibrant retail center bringing new businesses and can’t-miss shops to Franklin, including a luxury hotel, a European-inspired bakeshop, apartments, and more.

During the construction of Harpeth Square, chef Frank Pullara saw past the debris and got to work on his plans for opening a new restaurant, a place where Franklin locals and visitors alike can gather around for a glass of wine and elevated Italian cuisine. 

In early 2021, Culaccino opened its doors on Main Street. We caught up with Chef Frank to learn more about his background and inspiration behind the eatery. 

Q: Walk me through your backstory and early culinary career.

Cooking always came naturally to me; I’ve always been intrigued about it since I was a little boy going back to eight or 10 years old. I always watched my mom and grandma cook. I got into the restaurant business my junior year in high school, and I gave up my other passion, which was soccer. 

The early years were a lot of hard work, a lot of hours, and a lot of sacrifices. I did an apprenticeship program, then became a kitchen supervisor, sous chef, and chef du cuisine. When I moved from Wisconsin to Florida, I actually took a step down in title to learn.

Q: What initially brought you to Franklin? 

I grew up in Mequon, Wisconsin; then, I moved to Naples, Florida, to work as an operating partner with my cousin. Then, I branched out on my own here. My wife and I really liked this area. I was looking at other areas to open, and after walking this street, seeing all of the people that were so welcoming and inviting, it reminded me of Wisconsin. That’s what brought us to Franklin.

Q: What was your inspiration behind launching Culaccino?

I’m Sicilian, so Italian food is what I grew up eating. It was my comfort food. I knew I wanted an Italian restaurant, but I wanted to have that industrial, sort of modern feel to it so it would be warm and inviting to people but not so open. When I first saw this spot, there were no windows, and it was all gravel. The building still had insulation outside of it.

Culaccino means the watermark left by a glass. Or, leaving an imprint. My hope is that we will be leaving an imprint on the people that come visit us. 

Q: What do you hope to convey through the food here? Through the atmosphere?

My main thing, especially in a community like this, is that I want people to feel like this place is an extension of their home. I want people to come here, feel relaxed, enjoy great food and great wine with great service, and feel comfortable coming here. We want to be that local neighborhood spot.

Q: What’s next for you?

We are expanding! After two years, we’re opening up another concept right across the street, a sister restaurant. There will be Italian influence to it, but it’s not an Italian/pasta spot. 

Q: What advice do you have for budding chefs or our readers at home?

I’m not a cookbook person; I cook from the heart. I always say a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that, plus heart. Cook from your heart, and whatever happens, happens.