The last day of 2013 also marks the end of a culinary era in Salt Lake City, as Dec. 31 is the final day of business for Rino’s Italian Ristorante.
After 33 years, partners Rino DiMeo and Hoss Takmil will close the old-school Italian restaurant on Parleys Way and settle into retirement.
It’s a move they are making reluctantly.
“For 25 years we were well-known and successful,” DiMeo said on Monday, “but the last five years things have changed.”
The down-turned economy, more restaurant competition and a crop of young chefs with “new ways of interpreting Italian food” all contributed to the restaurant’s decline, he said. “We’re considered old-fashioned.”
Rino’s is the stuff of nostalgia, known as much for its red-sauced veal Parmesan and ravioli as it is for its charming 1980s-style dining room.
Born in Naples, DiMeo worked on a cruise ship in the 1970s when he met a family from Salt Lake City. That connection eventually brought him to the Beehive State, where he worked in several restaurants, including La Fleur de Lis and Royal Palace. The latter is where he met Takmil.
In 1980, the two decided to open their own place, doing whatever needed to be done, from chopping vegetables to making house-made pasta and sauces.
“And at night, we both wait tables, even now,” said DiMeo, who turns 68 next month. “We like to have that communication with the customers. They see you, they know you and they trust you.”
Long before it became trendy, DiMeo and Takmil planted a garden to supply the restaurant with fresh produce. They had one garden at the restaurant and another at DiMeo’s Davis County home. The gardens were flush with several varieties of Italian tomatoes, herbs, squash and other produce. They even have a greenhouse.
Last year, with a bumper crop of produce — and in need of some cash — DiMeo took extra produce to the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park. He plans to do it again come spring.
“We’re not planning to retire and do nothing,” DiMeo said. “You’ll definitely see me at Farmers Market. I plan to put my energy into seeds.”
But he’ll still yearn for the restaurant days.
“Sharing what you prepare, sharing what you have been growing,” he said, “that’s what I’ll miss.”