Here's an old newspaper article about the Montecalvo family printed back in 1998. If you're familiar with Richmond and it's pizza restaurants, you'll enjoy this article!
Copyright 1998 The Richmond Times Dispatch
Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
January 21, 1998FAMILY AFFAIR; MONTECALVO BROTHERS HAVE DEFIED ODDS WHILE FEEDING RICHMONDERS FOR 40 YEARS
By: Steve Clark; Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
Preparing Italian cuisine came naturally for the six children of Raphael and Regina Montecalvo. Mama was a great cook. "She was a fantastic cook," said Anthony Montecalvo. "A lot of my recipes I stole from her." "Our mother could cook a chair and make it taste good," said Vincent Montecalvo. The two brothers, better known as Tony and Vinny, have made good use of what they learned from their mother years ago in Providence, R.I. The two Henrico County restaurateurs have been preparing Italian food for Richmond-area diners for more than 40 years. Tony operates Monte Calvo's Italian Cuisine restaurant at Staples Mill Road and Northside Avenue, just two blocks north of the Staples Mill and Dumbarton Avenue intersection. Vinny operates Vinny's Italian Kitchen West restaurant at 8115 W. Broad St. in the Pine Dell Shopping Center. Both restaurants have had long runs, which is quite an accomplishment in the highly competitive restaurant business.
Tony, 62, and Vinny, 66, grew up in Providence, a city with a large Italian community and many excellent Italian restaurants. Their parents were natives of Italy who had come with their families to Providence when they were young. Raphael Montecalvo, a World War I veteran, and his wife, Regina, had six children - three boys and three girls. Raphael, or Ralph as he went by in America, died when the children were still young. Josephine, the oldest, was 14. Marie, the baby, was just a few months old. Tony was 2 when his father died, so he doesn't remember the man. Vinny, who was 6, remembers the last time he saw their father. "I was playing marbles outside when he walked by on the way to the doctor," Vinny said. "He waved at my mother and told her, in Italian, that he would be home soon. That was the last time I saw him. He never came home."
Regina Montecalvo was left with six young children. "How that woman did what she did still amazes me," Tony said. "She worked hard all her life." The children worked to help make ends meet. "We were poor but we didn't know we were poor," said Vinny, who remembers working as a delivery boy on a milk truck when he was about 10. "I'd get up at 4:30 each morning to work on the milk truck, then go to school," Vinny said. "The teachers were always getting on me for falling asleep in class."
For a number of years, their mother ran a restaurant. "We used to help her in the restaurant after school and on weekends," Tony said. "I remember thinking, 'I'll never go into the restaurant business. It's too crazy." The oldest son, Michael Montecalvo, who died nearly five years ago, settled in Richmond in 1951, after he was discharged from the National Guard at Fort Pickett near Blackstone. "Both Mike and I were in the National Guard at Camp Pickett, as it was called in those days," Vinny said. "We used to come into Richmond on furlough, and we always ate at Julian's on Broad Street, the old place, when it was across the street from the train station. "One night I'm talking with Julian Moroni and his partner, Pete Poli, and they asked me if I knew anybody who might be willing to run their new place out in the country. That was the first Italian Kitchen on Meadowbridge Road near the State Fairgrounds, and it was definitely out in the country in those days. "I told them my older brother was getting discharged from the National Guard and was looking for work. They offered Mike the job, he took it, and that's why all three of us ended up in Richmond."
Mike soon bought the restaurant on Meadowbridge. In 1952, Vinny went to work for him. "When I was discharged from the Guard in Germany, I tried to hide from my brother Mike, but he found me and made me come to work for him," Vinny said. Tony came two years later, in 1954. "I was working in the oil business in Providence," Tony said. "One day I was talking with Mike on the phone and I asked could he use some help. He said yes, so I came down." For the next decade the three brothers worked together in the original Italian Kitchen on Meadowbridge Road. The restaurant's advertising slogan in those days was: "Pizza pies our recognized specialty."
Mike usually worked out front. Vinny and Tony worked in the kitchen. They recall fondly that there were nights when they went out back to duke it out. "Vinny and I love each other to death," Tony said. "We're very close brothers. But you know how brothers are. Sometimes they argue and fight. A few nights we'd go out back and take a few punches at each other. Then Mike would yell at us to get back to work. We had an order to fill. We'd go back into the kitchen and work together like nothing had happened." Four decades later, Vinny remembers the reason for one scuffle. "One night," he said, "Tony was fixing an order of veal parmigiana just the opposite of the way you're supposed to. He was putting the cheese on the veal and then the sauce on top of the cheese. I yelled at him, 'Hey, you're supposed to put the sauce on the veal, then the cheese on the sauce!' He yelled back, and the next thing I know, we're outside fighting."
In 1964, the three Montecalvo brothers opened a second restaurant, the Italian Kitchen West in the Pine Dell Shopping Center in what had been a drugstore. Vinny eventually took over Italian Kitchen West, while Mike continued to operate the original Italian Kitchen on Meadowbridge. Mike moved his restaurant to Mechanicsville in 1977. Tony continued to work with Vinny at Italian Kitchen West for several years, then went his own way. He opened Monte Calvo's on Patterson Avenue in Richmond's West End in 1967. "I had my own ideas about how to run a restaurant, so I opened my own place," Tony said.
Why did he name the restaurant Monte Calvo's instead of Montecalvo's? Tony laughed as he explained. "I knew it would be easier for people in Richmond to pronounce the restaurant's name if I split the family name into two words," he said. Monte Calvo's stayed on Patterson Avenue for 20 years, then moved to its location off Staples Mill in 1987.
"I wanted a bigger place," Tony said. "I could seat about 70 people on Patterson. This place seats about 170. Plus, I've got a parking lot that makes it much easier to park near the door."
Opening a restaurant is one thing. Keeping one going is another thing. And keeping one going for several decades is really something. Both Montecalvo brothers realize that what they have done is rare in the restaurant business. Last month, Vinny celebrated his 33rd year in the same location. Tony celebrated Monte Calvo's 30th year last year. How have they survived? "Hard work and long hours," Tony said. "You've got to be there. And you don't count the hours. If you count the hours you put in, you'll go nuts." Vinny agrees. "You've got to bust your tail every day," he said. Both restaurants are open for dinner only. Vinny is open every night. Tony closes on Monday nights.
Most of the dishes served in both restaurants are prepared from scratch. Both restaurants bake their own bread. "We learned bread from Mike, who was a baker by trade," Tony said. Both Tony and Vinny spend a lot of time in the kitchen overseeing the preparation of the food. "You have to make sure the food is done right because that's what keeps your customers coming back," Tony said. Both restaurants have a stable of regular customers. "Some of my customers have been coming in here for 30 years," Vinny said. "And they always order the same thing. I tell 'em, 'Try something different.' But they want the same thing."
To anyone who is thinking about getting into the restaurant business, Tony has plenty of advice. "First of all, you've got to love what you're doing," he said. "You've got to love food. You've got to love cooking. "Also, you've got to love people. I'm the kind of guy who never met a stranger. Everyone who walks through my door is special. That's how you treat them and that's how you survive. "And don't expect to make any money the first five years. You just bust your rump and hope to take in enough to pay your bills." And, of course, you've got a big edge if your mother was a fantastic cook.