Richard DeMartino has learned a few lessons along the way in the restaurant business. He is reminded of one in particular every night when he goes into work at Cafe Tiramisu.
“There are a few things you find out later in life,” he says. “You don’t name a restaurant for a dessert or food, because you always have to have it.”
As problems go, it’s a manageable one. Richard, his brother RD, and their father, Paolo, have owned Cafe Tiramisu since 1996. Their Northern Italian cuisine has been a local favorite ever since.
But long-time Raleigh diners have been loyal to the family dating back to 1976, when Paolo owned Piccolo Mondo. Richard was nine years old when he began washing dishes, before working his way up to busing and waiting tables. The family sold the business a couple of years before opening Cafe Tiramisu in the Northridge Shopping Center. Many of the veal and chicken recipes from Piccolo Mondo remain on Cafe Tiramisu’s menu.
Today, Richard and RD share kitchen duties, create new dishes, and operate the business. And Paolo? He will turn 88 this year. For many patrons, he’s still the star of the show. They come for the spinach fettuccine, but they love Paolo for his backstory. He was born in Italy, raised in Cairo, and met his wife in Cuba. He brings all of that to the restaurant each night.
“My father, he has a little bit of a temper,” DeMartino says with a laugh. “People love him, that whole attitude. He’s there every morning at 9:30am and he won’t leave until 10pm. He does his share of the kitchen.”
The DeMartinos have kept their philosophy simple through the years. Chef Paolo prepares the dishes he knows best, and they keep the tiramisu coming.
“You have to cater to what people like,” DeMartino says. “A lot of New Yorkers and (restaurateurs) who come to this town think, we’re going to teach these guys how to eat. We want to do what the customers want.”
Source: Mid Town Magzine