Editor’s Note: The Northside Business Partnership is an association comprised of Northside businesses, property owners, and organizations. It serves as an advocate group for the Northside, strengthening the vitality of the business community by connecting, engaging, and promoting its members. NBP is administrated by NEHDA.
Thom is the general manager for Attilio’s, which is owned by Lou Santaro and Roy Sardo. Attilio’s has been a Northside Business Partnership member since 2013 and has been delighting customers with distinct Italian cuisine on the Northside since its opening in 2010.
Q: How long have you worked for Attilio’s? How did you get into this line of work?
A: Since we opened, March 9th, 2010. I started [in this line of business] when I was in high school . . . 36 years. Restaurants were always a part time gig, whether it be waiting tables or bartending or something of that nature. And then 9/11 happened, my dad died shortly after, and I thought “life is too short to do things that make you unhappy.” So, that’s when I got into the restaurant business full time. I was with Antonio’s at the time, full time with them. They closed down in 2009 and then I took a tour of Syracuse, at 8 different spots in 9 months. Nothing felt like home. Current owner asked me back, and here I’ve been.
Q: Has Attilio’s always been at this location? What do you like about being located on the Northside?
A: Yes. For one, we’re Italian and we’re in Little Italy. For two, this is a unique restaurant with a large history and a good following, regardless of new and old. As far as our banquet facility, it’s unique to Syracuse, I think. It’s one of the nicest, if not the nicest banquet facility . . . The banquet room is exclusively for private functions, so if you have a birthday, an anniversary, a wedding reception or rehearsal dinner, baptism—I do ‘em all. I do it from baptisms on up to funerals, and everything in between. I’ve seen kids take their first steps and done their rehearsal dinners. So, that’s how long I’ve been at this location, is 20 years. Some nice dinners, nice memories, and nice cocktails.
Q: Any dislikes?
A: Sometimes the neighborhood gets a little rowdy. But we try to make it work. That’s probably the only downside. I keep telling myself, when you think about Armory Square, for the first 10 years, I think Pastabillities was the only place there, otherwise it was rundown buildings and so on. So I keep telling myself it will be at least that to get off the ground.
Q: What dishes would you recommend to a first time Attilio’s diner?
A: Oh, there’s so many. My personal favorite is Veal Saltimbocca. Scallop and Shrimp Veneziana and Chicken Gabrielle are unique to our restaurant. Veal Saltimbocca has just been always a favorite dish of mine. A nice combination of meats and sauces and vegetables served over a bed of spinach, so you kinda get a healthy meal right there in one plate.
Q: Any favorite drinks?
A: When we first opened, we did the WinterFest every year and we won a bunch of awards for those, but they’re changing so often. We make good margaritas, manhattans, martinis, things like that. One of my personal favorite drinks is the Old Fashioned, a Southern Comfort Old Fashioned muddled.
Q: If you had to manage a restaurant other than Attilio’s, what kind of restaurant would you manage and why?
A: I don’t think I would. I have always been in this business. It’s in my blood. My grandparents owned restaurants. Skipped my mother’s generation, they didn’t want to have anything to do with it because as kids they had to do pots and pans. So it skipped them and I can’t get enough of it. So I know that I’ll always be in this business in some aspect.
Q: What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever had on the menu?
A: Us being an Italian restaurant, we at times throw in dishes with an Asian flair and people are always taken aback by that but they seem to love it. Like an Ahi tuna with a seaweed salad or something like that. There’s other dishes that are not Italian that we’ve done in specials and people absolutely eat them up and love them.
Q: Do you have any advice for people interested in getting into the restaurant business?
A: Just give it your all. If you’re going to do something, do it with your heart, body, and soul. Don’t do it halfheartedly. It’s that simple in my mind. You either want to be in the business and you want to do a good job to make people happy and enjoy their experience every time, or you don’t. If you don’t, don’t get into it. It’s that simple.
To learn more about Attilio’s and see their tasty menu, visit their website.