STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Growing up in the town of Amantea in Calabria, Italy, Natale Giusta always wanted to open a restaurant serving his favorite dishes — like salmon alla livornese, sausage, peppers and onions, and steak pizzaiola.
“Many, many years ago, my father had a restaurant with his brother in my country. It was always my dream to open a restaurant,” he said, noting he was raised in a family of nine kids.
But once he arrived in America in 1980, Giusta began to work in the construction business. A fine craftsman, he loved creating “something from nothing.”
“But it [the desire to open a restaurant] stayed with me. I kept saying ‘one day, one day’,” recalled Giusta.
That “one day” came on March 8, 2018.
At 57 years old, Giusta said it was time to retire from the construction industry, and make his dream of owning his own restaurant with a Calabrese style of cooking a reality.
The name of the restaurant nods to the moniker of Amantea’s main thoroughfare, Via Margherita.
Giusta designed and created the entire restaurant in Rosebank — just a few doors away from the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum — to look like the inside of a “grandma’s kitchen” in an old Italian villa.
“From the decor to the food, we wanted you feel like you’re home or inside your grandma’s kitchen,” said Guista ‘s yongest son, Benedetto, who manages the eatery.
A focal point of the restaurant is a light wood-stained breakfront, with little knick-knacks — each a reminder of something from the elder Guista’s childhood, like china circa 1950s and a bowl of plastic fruit.
Checkered tables cloths — either red and white, or green and white — mimic the colors of the Italian flag, and create a homey atmosphere.
Artwork by Luigi Marziano — scenes from Italy — adorn the walls, some made to look worn and constructed of brick.
And the business is a family affair. In addition to his youngest son, Benedetto working at the business, Giusta’s wife, Loredana, and daughter, Romina Giusta-Gallagher, help with the cooking.
Guista’s older son, Joe, who is an electrician, just comes by to eat, Giusta joked.
“We do Sunday sauce, lasagna, stuffed meatloaf. People love to come here for Sunday dinner. …My mom cooks at night and my sister cooks during the day, ” said Benedetto.
“We get a lot of repeat customers. Sometimes we get people coming in three times each week. We get a lot of feedback about how people haven’t had this type of food in so many years,” he said.
And the Guistas are meticulous about the way they keep their kitchen — a lot like most Italian grandmothers. Everything shines, and all pastas and other ingredients are labeled in bins and organized.
Of the family dynamic that makes the restaurant a success, Guista-Gallagher said: “We try to listen to each other with everything. Obviously, there will be a lot of opinions, but you take a little bit of everything and make it into one.”
AND THEN THERE’S MARIO
Outside the restaurant is a nearly 5-foot-tall statue of an Italian chef holding a tray of spaghetti. The back story is that the elder Giusta rescued Mario from the trash and gave him a complete, yet detailed overhaul. It’s now a signature welcome to the restaurant as patrons often stop to take photos with it.
VIA MARGHERITA AT A GLANCE
Address: 452 Tompkins Ave., Rosebank
New Businesses in Focus is a weekly column that relates the stories of new Staten Island businesses owners.
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