It Takes More Than Taste to Create Tradition
Mondo’s Ristorante Turns 50 This Month
Almost every tradition begins with three ingredients; family, friends, and food. Traditions created with those ingredients bring about a perfect combination enticing those involved to keep that tradition cooking right along. Tulsa has many of these traditions including one that has been going strong for 50 years this October. This family business is one of those recipes in life that was destined to become a tradition. From the Age of Aquarius through the age of nanotechnology, Mondo’s Italian Ristorante has been serving up a family tradition to those who have made it a Tulsa tradition worth tasting.
It began with a desire to share family recipes that had come over from Italy and has since grown into a local icon of sorts. Through the desire of one man to follow a dream and make the sacrifices to see that dream materialize, a real tradition has manifested in Tulsa. What is so interesting about Mondo’s success is that it wasn’t this corporate outline of bottom lines and marketing campaigns. But instead, a simple belief in the old way of doing things; a choice to be real and true to the principles of hard work, personal interaction, and quality.
The patriarch of this dream is Lou Aloisio. He is a first-generation Italian American who carved out a life that represents his idea of the American dream. He worked for City Service Oil as a sales manager while raising his family, but always had dreams of opening an Italian restaurant. Lou’s father Angelo, was a chef in Italy who came to America through Ellis Island, past the Statue of Liberty in 1920 from Abruzzi, Italy. Carrying with him were the old family recipes that would someday be the foundation for authentic Italian cuisine in Tulsa. He held onto those recipes and would eventually teach his Lou how to prepare them.
Lou, however, did not quit his day job at City Service Oil to pursue this dream but would work all day, come home for a quick nap and then head to the restaurant and begin cooking. His wife would waitress and his sons began working in the establishment as children bussing tables. Lou continued working both jobs until his retirement from City Services in 1984. Son and co-owner Rob Aloisio, said that his father used his middle name so if the restaurant was a flop his last name wouldn’t be associated with it.
As the business grew so did the family. There are eight Aloisios currently working at the restaurant which encompasses three generations with the 86-year-old Lou or Papa Lou as most patrons know him, still at the helm as the father figure of the business. Rob and his two brothers Christo and Mike run the daily operations while Lou plays host. There are four of the grandchildren working there now, Rob said. He hopes that one of them will continue the tradition for another 50 years.
“We are truly family-owned and operated,” Rob Aloisio said. “Our motto is, if the doors are open, there is always an Aloisio in the house.”.
As for the cuisine, the recipes are strictly followed. There is no deviation from those originals which came through Ellis Island almost 100 years ago. New dishes have been introduced through the years, but the sauces have remained the same for all of the staple dishes that have been served since 1969.
Although it was the taste of their food which initially brought people to Mondo’s, there is another element that has become a tradition. Rob explained that their longevity has created an atmosphere of family and familiarity that grows stronger with each new generation. Patrons who came as children with their parents have grown up to bring their families. And with Papa Lou’s love of interacting with patrons, these long-time customers have become family. They are greeted like old friends at a reunion. Rob said they have people who come in twice a week and so many other regulars that it is like Cheers, where everyone knows their name. The same is true for the staff, Rob added. They have very little turnover because everyone is treated like family.
In a time when the world moves so quickly and so much is tossed aside for the latest and greatest, there is a lot to be said for Mondo’s. It’s a reminder that old is still good and that family and friendship are truly the greatest elements in life and tradition. Mondo’s is a testament to not only the reality of achieving the American dream, but of becoming an example of how the passage of time may change our world, but not what is most important.
C.L. Harmon a journalist and author.
He Has worked for several newspapers as a reporter and was the managing editor for a daily before starting his own paper, The Mannford Reporter in Mannford, Oklahoma.
The Mannford Reporter came with many life lessons and experiences that I may share one day. For now my focus and my love is Uniquelahoma!
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