After three generations, Martino family members consider their business their home as much as their actual houses.
That is how Michael Martino has lived for most of his life.
And the clientele at Martino’s Italian Villa is equally acquainted with the restaurant.
“We’ve still got third and fourth generations of customers,” Martino said. “That’s what keeps us going. We’re fortunate that we’ve had great clientele, great customers.”
The restaurant turned 50 in April, and the Martino family is having a celebration noon to 8 p.m. Saturday.
The event will honor a business that has grown from a small mom-and-pop shop to a multi-faceted establishment that remains in the family with the next generation ready to take over when ready.
Minnie Ann to Martino’s
Martino’s has been on North Washington Street for only 40 of its 50 years.
It hasn’t always been Martino’s either.
Angie and the late Frank Martino, who immigrated from Italy in 1947, opened Minnie Ann Doughnut Shop on April 17, 1962, at the corner of Jackson and Philips streets.
There, the Martinos began making pizzas, sandwiches and other short-order items.
After two years, the couple moved to a bar at North and Main streets and opened Del Martino Inn.
They spent eight years developing their business, while their children helped out.
“At 8, 9, 10 years old, we’re grating cheese and peeling onions and sweeping floors,” said Michael Martino, one of Frank and Angie’s sons. “As you got older, you picked up more responsibilities.”
It was at the North and Main Martino’s where Michael learned how to cook as he prepared lunch for himself and his siblings during their school breaks.
By 1972, the restaurant was ready for a bigger place, so the family moved the business to its current location.
Mom’s still in charge
Although Frank is gone, Martino’s operates as it always has.
“Mom still ain’t letting go,” Michael Martino said with a laugh earlier this week as he took a break from his post-lunch rush responsibilities.
He gradually stepped into a managerial role as his father phased out his responsibilities more than a decade ago.
He didn’t see much difference in how the restaurant functions now compared to his childhood there.
“I still think of it as Mom and Dad’s place,” he said.
Frank and Angie’s recipes still make up the “core menu,” such as spaghetti and meatballs, pizza and stromboli.
“That’s what they started with and [they’re] still our best sellers,” Michael Martino said.
Other entrees and sandwiches have come and gone from the menu over the decades as the family has experimented in the kitchen.
Everyone has their own items they like to prepare, such as Angie’s affinity for preparing marinara sauce.
“If Mom’s not here, I may start the sauce,” Michael said. “She sees me and says, ‘Don’t you have to finish bread?’ She won’t let go of the spaghetti sauce.”
50 gone, 50 more?
Martino’s has passed 50 years, and although Michael, at age 52, does not see himself in charge for another 50 years, the business should last that long, he said.
The restaurant has already begun grooming his nephew, Anthony Martino, as the heir-apparent of the Italian eatery.
Anthony, who plans to earn a degree in marketing from Indiana University Kokomo while simultaneously learning how to run his family’s restaurant, has begun developing new business strategies for the restaurant.
But he admitted he had a lot to learn.
“I still don’t know half what I need to to run this business,” he said with a grin.
The third-generation Martino in line to run the business recalled a childhood similar to that of his elders.
“It’s almost like a second home,” he said. “I’m just as happy here as I am there.”
• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at email@example.com.