Enriching A Family Tradition

OCEAN CITY – The Russo family is well known for their line of Italian restaurants and pizzerias in Baltimore, Salisbury, and Ocean City, but their latest venture stands to honor not only the Russo tradition of Italian cuisine, but also the memory of a loved one.

The Russo’s suffered a devastating loss in 2003 when Angelo Russo died in a diving accident at age 28. The accident, which occurred Aug. 20, 2003, had a profound impact on the family and the town, inspiring the Russos to participate in fundraisers and more recently to open a restaurant in his honor.

Lisa Russo, older sister of Angelo and owner of Angelo’s Italian Cuisine, said that the restaurant would be a way to, “keep his name alive.”

“He’s gone but not forgotten,” Russo explained as she spoke fondly of her brother, whom she was very close with. “I want the restaurant to be a way to honor his name permanently.”

Russo went on to explain that her brother was her inspiration and motivation in making the restaurant a success.

May 26 marked one year of operation for the restaurant and one year as a restaurant owner for Russo. Although it is her first year as an owner, she is certainly not a newcomer to the restaurant business.

With a family that has been more than successful with restaurants in Ocean City and other places as well, Russo knows what it takes to make it in the restaurant business.

Russo worked for her dad, Tony, at Tony’s Pizza on the Boardwalk for years, gaining ample knowledge and experience in the restaurant field. After years of managing Tony’s, Russo decided to venture out and open her own restaurant.

Angelo’s Italian Cuisine, located on 33rd Street and Coastal Highway, was an ideal location for Russo. It’s located not only in the heart of town, but also in a building that has been in the family since the 1980’s.

Opening her own restaurant proved to be more challenging than she anticipated, Russo said as she explained the additional struggles and worries that come with owning your own business.

“There’s just a lot more to worry about,” Russo said.

Payroll, bills, wait staff, and restaurant maintenance are a few of the worries that Russo has undertaken since moving from a manager to a restaurant owner.

“It’s the little things that keep you up at night,” she said.

Despite the initial worries and struggles, Russo has tackled the role of restaurant owner head on, vowing to make the operation a huge success.

With a successful first year under her belt, Russo has high hopes for an even better year.

“We have an awesome chef this year,” Russo boasted as she described all that Angelo’s Italian Cuisine has to offer. “Hopefully this will be the best restaurant in town.”

Russo feels that the unique menu and great employees will make that goal a reality. Russo presented the extensive menu full of mouthwatering Italian cuisine that is sure to leave customers satisfied.

The menu offers a variety of antipasti, soups and salads, entrees, and homemade desserts. A kids menu is available, as well as a wine menu and a full bar. Accompanying the full bar is happy hour, occurring Monday through Thursday from 5 to 6 p.m.

“We sell a lot of everything,” Russo said, explaining that there isn’t one thing on the menu that’s better than the next. “Everything has been a hit so far.”

Besides the set items on the menu, customers are also provided with a daily special, chosen and prepared by the head chef.

The menu is not the only aspect of the restaurant that Russo takes pride in; there are the employees as well.

“Our whole wait staff is great,” Russo said. “We’re all like family.”

Russo added that the employees are what make the restaurant run smoothly. The staff not only helps Russo create a thriving restaurant, but also provides an enjoyable atmosphere and experience for the customer.

When asked what makes Angelo’s unique from other Italian restaurants in town, Russo concluded that the food and friendly wait staff are what make Angelo’s stand above the rest.

Angelo’s opens at 5 p.m. daily and stays open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on weekends. Although the restaurant closed in November last year, Russo hopes to stay open year round this year.

According to Russo, her favorite and least favorite aspect of restaurant life is one in the same, “being my own boss.” Russo explained that she loves the freedoms of running her own business, but dislikes some of the struggles that come with it.

For Russo, creating a restaurant that honors her brother outweighs all of the pros and cons of being a restaurant owner.  For her, it is the drive to create a successful restaurant in memory of Angelo that keeps her going.

“He’s the reason why I want this to be one of the best restaurants in town,” Russo said. “We want to remember him all the time.”