Keith Brothers, Chef On A Roll In Fenwick

Keith

OCEAN CITY – Mio Fratello Italian Steakhouse’s homemade Italian dishes and family-friendly atmosphere is just the thing that got them up and running in hard times.

Bryan and Richard Keith and Bert Parks are the owners of Mio Fratello Italian Steakhouse located on Route 54. The family-owned and -operated business has not missed a beat since its opening two years ago.

Sometime before then, Parks approached the Keith brothers about opening the restaurant at the beach. It seemed to be the perfect opportunity since the brothers owned the existing shopping center and due to the economy were having trouble renting out the space. After some deliberation with their family, they figured “why not”.

“I’m a builder, I had no idea about restaurants,” Bryan Keith said. “Now I do.”

Parks is Mio Fratello’s executive chef and has about 20 years of experience in running restaurants and delivering exquisite meals. He has won several awards, including the top rated Zagat rated Italian restaurant. He writes the menus and creates the specialty dinners for the restaurant.

Prior to opening Mio Fratello, Bryan Keith said he went to friends Dawn McGee, owner of Smitty McGee’s, and Norman Sugrue, owner of Big Fish Grill, for advice in running a restaurant.

“I have the two best people in the world showing me how to do everything and I got the best chef who makes the best food, so to me it was a win-win situation,” he said.

The establishment also receives a tremendous amount of support from the owner’s families. Richard and Margaret Keith cook homemade Italian goods right out of their home in Wilmington, Del. and have it shipped directly to the restaurant.

“My mom is Italian, and my mother- and father-in-law are Italian,” Keith explained. “They thought, ‘well you have this professional chef, then why don’t we throw in some homemade Italian spices and recipes.’”

At first, everything seemed to be figured out except the name of the restaurant couldn’t be agreed on. If someone were to ask Bryan, he would say “go ask my brother”, and if Richard was asked, he would respond in the same way. From there, Mio Fratello was born, which means “my brother” in Italian.

“The best thing about it is when you come to this restaurant you’re not just coming into any restaurant, you’re coming into somebody’s home,” Keith said.

On opening day, the restaurant hosted a “soft opening”, which only friends and family were invited to attend. At 6 that evening, 87 people had arrived and by the end of the night 187 dinners were served. Now, Mio Fratello serves at least 300 dinners a night and easily 400 dinners on a Saturday night.

“From that day until today, we haven’t stopped,” Keith said.

Keith says he has at least 300 local residents who visit his establishment in a week just to check up on him.

“It’s been a blessing,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my locals, I wouldn’t have made it.”

Now in its second year of business, Mio Fratello is looking to expand. Above the restaurant there is a 3,000-square-foot space, which is going to become a banquet venue that will cater to weddings and large parties.

“It’s been the most incredible ride I have ever been on,” Keith said. “I love the business, and now I have the opportunity to do weddings, banquets and parties upstairs. It holds up to 225 people, and I mean you don’t have something like that in this area.”

At Mio Fratello, happy hour is daily from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. There are also daily bar food specials set at $7.99. From 3-6 p.m. there are $4.99 food specials at the bar, including the Mio Trio, which includes two raviolis, a meatball, and an Italian sausage. Every Tuesday night Bryan Clark performs. Clark covers music from Sinatra to Motown, along with classic hits from the Rat pack, Tom Jones, Ray Charles and Elvis.

“He has taken my restaurant entertainment wise to a whole new level … he’s free and it’s incredible,” Keith said.

According to Keith, Mio Fratello offers one of the best wine lists at the beach, including homemade white and red sangria.

According to Keith, the most popular dinners are the veal and chicken parmesan, but Parks’ signature dish is the Chicken Genovese, featuring chicken breast sautéed with caramelized onions, prosciutto, sun dried tomatoes, black olives and diced tomatoes in a white wine sauce.

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