Welcome to the second edition of Q&A with Salvatore, the executive director, of the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals. In the Q&A's, Salvatore will interview business and community leaders around the Chicagoland area as well as people around the world that are experts in their chosen professions.
In this second edition, Salvatore interviews Tony Barbanente, executive chef and owner of Via Veneto and learns about what makes his restaurant formula so successful.
1. There are so many Italian restaurants in Chicago. What is unique and special about Via Veneto? I am chef owner from Italy. This is a family restaurant. We cater + serve people like they are part of us. Family. Plus we use ingredients + touch of real Italian cooking because I lived in Italy cooking with mom and family members truly Italian cooking.
2. How did you get into the restaurant business? I was born in Italy cleaning potatoes at age of 4 years old in my uncle resort restaurant Adriatic Coast (Marechiaro – clear sea). Then came to this country at age of 12 years old. Worked in restaurants bus boy, then kitchen. Went to school, college (as they say, when you are in restaurant business you cannot leave this business, its in your blood). So we family members open restaurant in Suburbs, then went on my own of age 18 years old.
3. What are your specialties? What entrees are your favorite? Specialties (Best Fried Calamari, Grilled Octopus/Chilean Sea Bass, Homemade Gnocchi, lots homemade pasta)
4. Tell us about the importance of quality and freshness of ingredients in your preparation of the food entrees. Quality + Freshness We use freshest ingredients as seasonal ingredients. When we cook, we don’t add any food filler. Just, freshest ingredients, Oil, garlic, onions, basil. You taste the food, not overwhelming with sauces. And you will taste the actual food.
5. You have many other family members in the restaurant business. Is this just coincidence or did you all love to cook at an early age? Family members in business. Yes. All my siblings had or have restaurant. City + Suburbs
6. Why do you have so many repeat customers? We have customers coming since we opened 30 years ago. We make them feel like home know what dishes they like we customize their dish if they want no garlic extra spice or other.
7. Do you cook more Northern or Southern Italian cuisine?
Our cooking is more lite a mix of Mediterranean ingredients. Strong from Southern Italy. But we cook dishes from all over Italy. And use the latest trends of dishes + spices.
8.What about your wine list? How important is it to pair wines with the entrees? Wine list is very important which complements our food. We select wine that goes with our menu. Also good wines that have high rating in win spectacular magazines.
9. What are you most proud of as a business owner of Via Veneto? First of all you need to love what you are doing, which I do. This is the only type of work I know to do. I like serving people cooking for them . it’s a day that never is boring. Always meet people, on daily basis know their food taste and please them. Cater to them. I am proud of that.
10. Why should people come to the Chicagoland Italian American Professionals networking event on August 25th? Give us a preview of some of the food and wine that people will enjoy. First it fits the title (Italian) American professional. You are coming to a Real Italian Restaurant and a chef + owner from Italy. Tony Barbanente. Focaccine house made. Funghi Ripieni, Pizza Margherita, Mini Meat Balls, Bruschetta, etc. Wine will pair the food.
Salvatore J. Sciacca is the Executive Director and Founder of the CIAP organization. He is an active member of the Italian American community in Chicago.