Stefano Follega of Grazzini Brothers & Co. in Egan, Minn. was recently named the 2014 Natural Stone Craftsman of the Year. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) award honors excellence in craftsmanship. Follega received the award at the MIA’s annual awards luncheon at StonExpo/Marmomacc Americas in Las Vegas.

Follega, a native of Rome, Italy, learned the craft from his father and uncle. He also worked with top architects and designers in historic Rome, home to some of the world’s most beautiful architecture. He credits his first teachers—his father, uncle, and prominent architects—for his work ethic and simple philosophy: ask questions, be respectful, and always be ready to do the job. He also admits he’s a perfectionist with a fervent passion for stone. “I like seeing a piece of stone, a rock or something change,” he said. “I always envision the finished product before I start.”

When he and his wife, Cara, moved to her native Minnesota to raise their family, Follega brought his old-world, artisan craftsmanship with him. In two-weeks-time, Follega was working at Grazzini Brothers, one of America’s leading stone companies. “Stefano walked into our office and spoke about 10 words of English,” recalls Guido Gliori, chief operations officer at Grazzini Brothers. “He showed up with his interpreter, who happened to be his wife. You knew immediately that he was a good man. He had the credentials... The rest is history.”

His work with the Lakewood Mausoleum Project in Minneapolis earned the Grazzini Brothers the 2012 MIA Grande Pinnacle Award. “No project is beyond Stefano’s ability,” said Eugene Grazzini Jr., chairman of the board at Grazzini Brothers. “His layout, his attention to detail and his creativity are superb. We are proud to have him as part of our team.”