Changing of the Guard
A new family takes over the Congers institution, Romolo’s. Lower prices, more family-friendly service, and porcini-stuffed pasta? We like it already
Vincent F. Vasti always loved the Veal Valdostana when he worked as a waiter at Romolo’s. Now that he and his brother-in-law, Frank Barbato Jr., have taken over the Congers, Rockland County ristorante, he continues to serve the savory, cheese-stuffed meat dish. He’s also held on to the same chef and staff. But that doesn’t mean customers shouldn’t expect changes ahead.
“All my life I’ve dreamed of owning a restaurant of my own,” says Vasti, who has been waiting tables, bartending and managing restaurants on and off since the age of 15. “The restaurant is a beautiful rock for us to build on. But we want to make this our own.” Since taking over the eatery in April, the pair have already installed a raw seafood bar, bought a new piano, added high-definition TVs to the bar area, spruced up the landscaping, and added outside dining. “I want to cater to the family. I want to lower my chicken and pasta prices and add a children’s menu. But I want to keep the quality and the elegance. This will be a place where you come for your 50th anniversary, as well as on a Tuesday night out with the kids.”
Vasti, who continues to work two days a week as a vice president of a mortgage bank, has introduced four new homemade pastas to the menu. The half-moon-shaped porcini-mushroom pasta, which is served in a light meat sauce with a touch of cream, has quickly garnered rave reviews from customers.
He has also changed the meat suppliers, he says, to get “a better quality of chicken and veal. I also have a New Zealand rack of lamb in a Madeira red wine sauce with garlic mashed potatoes. I never saw a customer pick up a bone and suck the meat off of it before.”
Vasti’s wife will often work as the hostess on Saturday nights — “so we can be together,” he says — and his 10-year-old daughter is already learning how to bus tables and work the coat check. Vasti wants everyone who comes to his establishment to feel they are also part of a big, extended family. “When I got married and had kids, I stopped working in restaurants for two years, but I missed it. I love to make people feel important and special. The service my customers get is impeccable. I feel that God put me on this earth to do this.”