Carmelo Mauro was born in Taormina, Sicily and, working in the hotel industry, had lived in Frankfurt, London and Geneva, just to name a few. But when he moved to Houston in 1978, somehow he knew he was home. Shortly after, he and his wife Hilary opened Carmelo’s Ristorante. In a couple of weeks, Mr. Mauro and his family will celebrate the restaurant’s 35th birthday. In a city in which dining establishments are notoriously short-lived, hitting the coral anniversary is no small feat.
We spoke with Mr. Mauro Tuesday afternoon, and his love for this city is immediately evident. He credits Houston for his success and remembers when his location in the Energy Corridor “might as well have been West San Antonio.” He states how Houston is a perfect city for the restaurant industry, constantly welcoming new talent and at the same time celebrating the “older folks.” Mr. Mauro doesn’t go long without crediting his staff for his success as well—some have been at Carmelo's for more than 30 years.
In the early days, customers would look quizzically at the risotto placed in front of them and ask Mauro “Why are you serving me rice? You are not Chinese!” Those days are long gone, however, and now the tables have turned. The chef says he no longer feels like he has to teach his patrons, but learns from them. With travel more frequent these days, customers are informing him of dishes they’ve had abroad, and Mauro takes his customer’s experiences to heart. We think he still has some lessons to teach, though. Sometimes old is new, and he is thrilled his younger diners are discovering “old fashioned” dishes such as Bistecca Diana and Beef Stroganoff, both still prepared tableside and as popular as ever.
On Sunday, June 12th, Mauro will host a cocktail party complete with complimentary hors d’oeuvres and Italian wine. When asked if he’d do anything differently, he quickly responds, “No. We are so fortunate to have such a great journey. I hope we last another 35 years, at which point I might retire.” Honestly, we hope it will be longer than that.