Robintino’s restaurant in Bountiful — which abruptly closed in August — will reopen in mid-December, with a new management team and some modern updates, but with the original Italian recipes that made it a Davis County landmark.
“A lot of things will change, but not the food,” promised William Bruce, the Utah restaurateur who negotiated a new building lease. “We’re keeping the original recipes and putting a few twists on the decor and service.”
Bruce owns and operates seven ’Bout Time Pub and Grub eateries in Utah — under the parent company Forward Focus Holdings Inc. He recently signed a 20-year lease with Robintino’s owners Bob and Merrilee McCall, who founded the restaurant in 1964.
Now close to 80, Bob McCall has spent his entire life in the restaurant business. He had owned Francesco’s restaurants and other Robintino’s locations in the Salt Lake Valley.
By leasing the building, 1385 S. 500 West, and keeping the classic Italian concept and brand, the McCalls can enjoy retirement after 55 years in business, said Bruce, a native Californian and a resident of Cottonwood Heights. In return, he takes over a well-known Utah concept and a built-in customer base.
“It’s a great deal for them,” Bruce said, “and a great deal for us.”
Robintino’s is the second landmark restaurant to be resurrected by Utah restaurateur in the past week. Owner of Salt Lake City’s Bar X and Beer Bar announced recently that they were buying and expanding Holladay’s Cotton Bottom Inn.
Bruce said several past employees will return, and he and his team are standardizing all the Robintino’s recipes — many of which were handwritten on the back of envelopes or index cards. Some original perks that had been eliminated in recent years will return, including a later closing time on Friday and Saturday, Sunday service and wine.
The restaurant also will get a technology update with a new online ordering system, so employees won’t have to take pizza requests over the telephone. Servers will use new electronic ticketing and payment systems that will eliminate the long lines that often form at the cash register, Bruce said.
The reopening is good news for longtime customers who were mourning the loss of the restaurant — popular for its pizzas, pastas and complimentary breadsticks with ranch dip.
When the December reopening was posted on the Save Robintino’s Facebook page, it was shared 420 times and received nearly 200 comments — including ones that proclaimed it “A Christmas Miracle” and that “Prayers are answered.”
Those are different emotions than a few months ago, when the McCalls posted a note on the front door saying they were shutting the doors for good. As news spread, the couple changed their mind, saying they would take a break and find a way to keep the eatery open.
For decades, Robintino’s has been a go-to place in the area for an easy Friday night dinner and special occasions from birthdays, homecomings to the end of Little League baseball season.
Before national chains started serving personal pan pizzas, Robintino’s offered its 8-inch Cenetta pizza. There are other original touches, like the signature dinner salad topped with beets, black olives and a slice of pepperoni, and the Friday night salmon special.
The McCalls first opened Robintino’s — named for Robin, their daughter — in the old shopping center on 400 East and 900 North in Bountiful, where the Mandarin Restaurant now sits. Later, it relocated on 500 South. About three decades ago, it moved into the former Bratten’s Cove location.