The Food Chain

A new generation in the esteemed Giuliano family brings a South Bay dining legacy into the modern age.

When Vince Giuliano thinks back on the childhood memories of his parents’ restaurant, he remembers an incident that involved a server who didn’t clock out during a break. Instead of telling his mother, Vince approached the server about the discrepancy himself. He was 13 years old at the time. 

“He was angry,” Vince recalls. “He said, ‘You don’t have the right—you’re a little kid.’ And I said, ‘No, you don’t have the right. This is my business.’”

Gaetano’s, a traditional Italian eatery in Torrance, opened several months before this confrontation and as the owners’ son, Vince learned to be responsible for a number of tasks. Along with his sister Andreanna Giuliano-Liguore, Vince jokes that he had jobs most kids couldn’t do today. He washed dishes, bussed tables and served meals. That’s why, when the server dismissed him, Vince remained confident.

“We never looked at it like we were the owners’ kids. We looked at it like we were the business owners,” he says.

Andreanna smiles at this story as she tells some of her own. She’s three years younger than Vince and says that the servers were also her babysitters. Earlier than that, she recalls how she played pretend on the register at her great-grandfather’s establishment, Giuliano’s Deli.

"I think we’re very cautious people. We get that from our grandmother,” Vince says. “There’s no way I wanted to start a new business if I felt like Gaetano’s wasn’t able to run itself.”

The memories these siblings share describe a legacy they’re determined to continue. When Andreanna and Vince opened Bettolino Kitchen in Redondo Beach this past March, they became the third generation in their family to open a South Bay restaurant.

And like their great-grandparents and parents before them, they gained their independence with their loved ones at their sides. “We knew how to run a restaurant, but it was something new to open one,” Andreanna says.

When Giuliano’s Deli began in 1952, the namesake patriarch, Gaetano Giuliano, and his wife, Frances, depended on family to turn the Gardena business into a success. A roster of relatives assisted in operations, and the deli eventually grew into a chain of 13 locations.

 

 

 

 

LA MIA FAMIGLIA Clockwise from top left: Dori and the kids at Gaetano’s; Great-Grandfather Gaetano in his deli in Wakefield, MA; Grandma Dotty, the face of Gaetano’s for many years.

 

Four decades later Vince and Andreanna’s parents, Steve and Dori Giuliano, opened Gaetano’s Deli (later restaurant), and talents were once again tapped from the inside. And when Steve passed away, the clan gathered to ensure that his business would also thrive.

“It was so normal to us, because it’s everything we’ve always known,” Vince says.

Vince credits a support system of relatives and good friends—as well as his mother’s hard work—as the reason behind Gaetano’s flourishing reputation when he and his sister were still children. They spent much of their free time at the restaurant, and they took pride in customers who they began to know as regulars.

Andreanna said she willingly took on more responsibilities, like cleaning tables and serving meals alongside her brother, as she grew up. But these after-school activities were never meant to be cute, Vince notes. They both saw it as work, not play, and their family expected them to contribute.

“It was never, ‘Aw, here, go take this to that table,’” Vince says, using a baby voice. “It wasn’t like that. It was like, ‘Get that out to number 52! Bring these dishes here! Let’s go!’ It was never for fun. It was serious, and we took it seriously too.”

As they worked, they were also able to observe. Vince remembers how his father used to say, “Once you cut quality, you might as well close your doors,” and Andreanna mentions how her mother’s biggest concern was customer service. Both laugh when remembering the times when their mom would go to the store to buy ingredients for a customer’s off-menu request, or those other occasions when their grandma would kindly give a meal away on the house.

They learned to have a balance between hospitality and business, intimacy and the big picture. While they matured into adults, Andreanna and Vince dreamed about a place of their own.

 

 

 

 

Left to Right: Nana Francis and Nanu Gaetano at the head of the table; a young Steve at Giuliano’s

 

“Even though we love Gaetano’s, we still look at it like it’s our parents’ restaurant. We never got to experience the opening of a restaurant from an execution standpoint,” Vince says.

And to add to her brother’s point, Andreanna mentions that they planned to complement where they grew up and not compete with it. “We wanted to go in a different direction: super modern and Italian. Definitely a different type of atmosphere that you couldn’t get at Gaetano’s,” she says.  

But before they could do all of the things they wanted to do as official leaders—like get a bank loan, find a location and hire a chef—they needed a plan. Five years ago, Vince decided to move to Florence, Italy, for six months to attend cooking school. Although he had some experience working in the kitchen at Gaetano’s, he wanted a formal training in classic Italian cuisine.

While he was away, Andreanna took over the tasks of her big brother, and she and the staff learned how to handle operations without Vince’s oversight. Their joint goal in this process was making sure Gaetano’s was secure when they were ready to leave.

“I think we’re very cautious people. We get that from our grandmother,” Vince says. “There’s no way I wanted to start a new business if I felt like Gaetano’s wasn’t able to run itself.”

On the first day of school in Florence, Vince heard about an accomplished teacher who has a Michelin star. Others had told him that students would be lucky to have such a chef as an instructor, and as it turned out Vince became one of the fortunate few.

The chef, Fabio Ugoletti, instructed Vince and his peers with modesty and passion, and he patiently gave the reasons behind certain techniques. Vince enjoyed the way Fabio wasn’t afraid to answer his persistent questions. So when he was asked to join his teacher at a catering event, Vince took the opportunity.

"People always ask me, ‘How do you work with your brother and your husband?’” Andreanna says. “I think because we’ve always done it, I don’t know anything different. It’s second nature.

“It was three days of us working in the kitchen,” Vince says. “I learned that he was a consultant on the side and traveled all over the world. So I asked him, ‘Hey, would you ever want to come to Gaetano’s and consult for us?’”

Although Fabio said yes then, a year passed before the two spoke again. Vince inquired a second time, and Fabio agreed to consult at Gaetano’s the following year.

 

 

 

 

As they resumed working side by side, Vince asked his former teacher another question that would change both of their lives. He wanted to know if Fabio would be the chef in the restaurant he dreamed of opening. Although Fabio was reluctant at first, he and his family eventually decided to make the move.

The immigration process took another year, and in that time Andreanna and Vince began training the staff at Gaetano’s to assume their roles. The siblings learned that Fabio’s immigration application was approved in March 2014, and three months later the long-awaited dream was quickly becoming a reality.

Andreanna and Vince had chosen Bettolino Kitchen’s location with their other business partner and Andreanna’s husband, Sean Liguore, and Fabio was in charge of creating a modern Italian menu. “I tried to make original Italian cuisine using the ingredients we have here. I didn’t want to import everything from Italy,” Fabio says.

Once the bigger issues had been resolved, family members assembled to fill in the details. Uncle Vinny supplied the meats. Cousin Tom became the representative for the produce. Uncle Paul handled the bread. The extended family at Gaetano’s was involved as well, and four employees became new staff members at Bettolino Kitchen.

Custom-made furniture and decorations, including artwork from yet another uncle, completed Andreanna’s vision for elegantly rustic décor. She says clear job descriptions and open communication—not to mention the occasional “two-second” fight—made this process easier than expected.

“People always ask me, ‘How do you work with your brother and your husband?’” Andreanna says. “I think because we’ve always done it, I don’t know anything different. It’s second nature.”

Now that the restaurant has opened, blue booths and simple chairs surround dark-wooded tables topped with delicate herbs. Two community benches stretch out in front of a bar, and a tinted window to the kitchen opposes a clear pane to views outside.

Couples and groups of friends eat handmade pasta, like gnocchi with pancetta and white wine, or risotto topped with slivers of roasted duck breast. There’s also the choice of capesante, otherwise known as prosciutto-wrapped scallops, and polpette, or hand-rolled meatballs.

Fabio tested these menu items by first naming them “specials” at Gaetano’s. The cozy setting was approved by friends and family.

It’s been an involved process, but so far it seems to be working. Vince says that this is because of his close-knit community and the family he’s always remembered to foster.

“We like to have a culture at our restaurant that it’s not just ours; it’s everybody’s,” Vince says. “If the restaurant does well, then we all do well.”

 

 

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