It was the summer of 1978 when my dad, Luigi, rented St. Bart’s Club from the St. Bartalomeo Men’s Society when he said to me, “Li, can you come and give me a hand with the cooking on Saturdays from noon until 5:00 p.m. Of course, I agreed. That’s when it all started. There was my dad behind the bar and me in the kitchen. The first customers came and I would nervously take their order, cook, deliver and wash dishes. Our menu back then was: tripe, suffritto, veal and pasta with meatballs or sausage.
Before long, Papa, had customers speaking Italian since he knew very little English. People did come and I can still vividly remember them. The friends and those mailmen sitting on those tables of all different shapes: round, square, rectangle. I remember the folding chairs and that big step in the middle of the dining room, (which was actually a crack in the floor).
Things were going very well and if sales were over $150, it was a good day. For me, getting $15 dollars in tips was big, (which was also my pay). So Papa decides to open on Friday nights. One Friday night, some of his friends’ playing cards were getting hungry and needed someone to feed them. Boy did they smoke up a storm and a cloud of smoke filled the room. Their favorite dish was spaghetti aglio e olio.
This went on for ten years, as much as Papa wanted for me and my two brothers, Tony and Ugo, to work together, they had other plans. They were too busy with the jewelry business on the main floor of the club which before was a big hall where wedding receptions were held.
I was the one to be there for him, week after week. So in 1988, he said to me, “Lee, it’s time for you to take over and I’ll just come in and give you a hand.” By this time, things were going really well, to the point that we needed help. So we hired a waitress and a dishwasher.
It was 1990 when we decided to fix up the Club and open Wednesday and Thursday nights and that’s when we really took off as a restaurant.
In 1996, the jewelry shop moved to a bigger location and that’s when the idea of extending the restaurant onto the main floor and that’s when a more functional restaurant came about. A lot of work went in from foundation, to outside walls to make sure the building was structurally safe. I paid attention to every detail. I painted the ceiling myself like Michelangelo upside down and chose all the décor. The project was finally complete in 2005.
Here we are today as L’Anrica Trattoria, still cooking and working hard to make the best Italian food around. My only regret in this long journey is that my Papa never got to see the transformation as he passed in 2003. From the Bartalomeo Men’s Society, to the St. Bart’s Club and now the L’Anrica Trattoria, it’s been a long road. Papa, these 35 years are dedicated to you and all you have done for your family.