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Left Bank venture: For diplomat-turned-foodie, pizza is next on menu

🕐 4 min read

MidiCi Pizza

629 Stayton St.

Fort Worth 76107

Expected opening in the fall

What is MidiCi?

Pronounced mee-dee-chee, MidiCi means “You tell me!” in Italian and reflects the brand’s focus on the social aspect of dining.

The three letter i’s in MidiCi represent three smiling friends whose faces come together to form the red smiling icon in the brand’s logo.

Over the years Neapolitan pizza has become an institution and, since 1998, its ingredients and method of preparation are protected by Italian law.

Michael Crain’s resume is about as varied as it gets and he’s about to add restaurateur.

The Boswell High School grad started his career with a law degree from Texas Wesleyan Law School, now Texas A&M University School of Law.

“I only practiced law long enough to justify taking the bar exam. It didn’t take long for me to realize that law was not for me,” he said.

Over the following decades he worked in politics and government, philanthropy and real estate, in locations from Fort Worth to China. His current venture is a MidiCi pizza franchise in the Left Bank development along West Seventh Street.

“We are hoping to introduce Fort Worth to MidiCi Pizza in the fall, around September,” Crain said.

After leaving his law career, Crain worked for the George W. Bush presidential campaign in Austin, and once Bush was elected in 2000, Crain moved to Washington, D.C., where he continued doing advance work (set-up and preparation for the president’s arrival) for the president and first lady, as well as for the vice president and his wife.

Four years passed and Crain ran the advance team for Bush’s re-election campaign as well. They were happy memories − after all these years, Crain’s cell phone still has the 202 prefix for Washington, D.C.

Crain then moved over to the Commerce Department as director of external affairs, where, as fate would have it, he met the U.S. ambassador to China, who offered him a position in Beijing. Crain and his wife, Joanna, jumped at the adventure.

“I worked at the American Embassy in Beijing for three years, but we were in China for eight years total. That is where we adopted our twin daughters,” he said.

Philanthropy entered the picture when Crain was looking for a way to give back and got the idea to streamline fundraising efforts by cutting out a lot of the overhead associated with many gala events, where much of the money raised has to pay for the ballroom rental and catering bill.

So, in 2009 the Crains launched Foodie Philanthropy’s predecessor in China, called “Chi Fan for Charity,” in Beijing. It took off! They introduced the one-night dining experience hosted by local restaurants in support of local charities in Shanghai in 2011 and in Hong Kong in 2012.

When the Crains decided to move home to Fort Worth in 2014 they brought the Foodie Philanthropy model along with them.

Foodie Philanthropy was introduced to Fort Worth last year. The 2016 event raised $10,000 for Girls Inc. of Tarrant County, and the 2017 event aims to help the Women’s Center of Tarrant County.

When they arrived back in town, Crain took a job in public policy for a little start-up called Uber. Then his friend Robbie Briggs, president of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s Real Estate, encouraged him to give real estate a try. Crain is now an award-winning agent selling both luxury residential and commercial properties in the area.

Joanna Crain maintains the ties to China with her company, WCT Events, which facilitates Americans who are traveling to China for business.

A true foodie at heart (and he’s not shy about that fact), Michael Crain began looking into franchise opportunities and was struck by the business model of a new pizza chain called MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Co.

“MidiCi feels fast, casual and comfortable. It has an upscale ambience at an affordable price point,” he said. “The motto of MidiCi is ‘People are the best thing that can happen to anyone’ and we love the fact that it will be a place for people to connect and reconnect with family and friends.”

The chain specializes in wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and uses national ingredients. Diners can choose from a long menu of specialized pies or create their own from a long list of ingredients. The restaurants have a full menu of wines and craft beers local to each market. The signature dessert is a Nutella calzone.

The chain was launched in 2015 by Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt CEO Amit Kleinberger. MidiCi is on a big franchise push, with eight new locations coming soon, including one in El Paso and one in Katy.

The MidiCi concept includes tall ceilings offering an open, spacious atmosphere. The idea is to create the feel of dining in an open-air piazza in Italy. Dramatic and sculptural pizza ovens lead the eye upward along with an indoor olive tree to soften the space.

“The end-cap space we scored near the new Tom Thumb and the future boutique hotel in the new Left Bank development will have a patio and indoor/outdoor fireplace as well,” Crain said.

Michael Crain must not need much sleep. With juggling multiple careers, doing philanthropy projects on the side and raising three daughters all at the same time, adding restaurateur to his resume doesn’t seem all that crazy.

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