Interview with the Owners of Caruso's Restaurant

November 29, 2023

Video Transcript

Speaker: Joe & Barb Caruso

When purchasing Doc Caccamo’s Pizzeria in 1976, how did you hope to transform it to reflect your unique vision and leadership style?

Joe & Barb Caruso: Well, when we purchased the restaurant, we wanted it to be a family type deal so that everybody in the family was on the same page because we wouldn't do it unless they were with us. And they had thought about it for a couple of days and come back and give us an answer if they all wanted to try it. Well, when we got up there, there was a lot of things that we thought should be changed.

Joe & Barb Caruso: way we went into this restaurant. We treated our employees like like we were a family and we didn't ask anybody to do anything that we wouldn't do ourselves. I said, because then they worked with us as a unit instead of just as a individual. And I said there was no backstabbing, backbiting or anything like that. We were just a family. And I said, plus the fact that Barb and I socialize with our help when we go out, go to the theater sometime or go someplace. I said, like we drove all of our employees went to Cedar Point and brought them and their families I rented two big tour buses to take them to Cedar Point. And I said, and they've never forgot that. And I said, in fact, the other day, I got a letter from one of my employees who brought that up. She says, I never will forget the time you took us all to Cedar Point

What specific initiatives or actions did you undertake to create a supportive and family-like atmosphere at Caruso's Restaurant?

Joe & Barb Caruso: You never, you never been over when Jackie was there. She, it was just, there was if you were in the other room and you heard somebody go. Damn it, Jackie. So you had a lot of fun. Fun. Exactly. And then, you know, our employees not only became employees but they became friends and we just, not just with us but with each other. I said, so it was always fun to see when we see an opening that we was gonna have the restaurant close for whatever holiday it was or something special that we could get together. We did. I said we'd beat it to the lake and go for boat rides. We'd go to take our employees to Cedar Point. We went every place with them. Das Dutchman and we were always in the mix of it. And then we also had, when the restaurant was closed to the public, we'd have the employees over and we'd have a party there and everybody knew what to do, knew what they put a pizza in the oven, they had to watch it and anything that we knew they knew to do, they could do. The other thing that we did is we ate break with them every night as a family with not just our kids but with all the employees. I said they'd all wait until we were caught up and doing what we had to do and then we'd all sit down and have pizza or whatever we were going to have for dinner that night together and we'd sit there and talk and we didn't restrict them to anything they want. I mean, they could pick what they wanted to eat. They go in the kitchen and tell them this is what I'm hungry for tonight. That was great. They loved it and we loved it. It was just fun. Yeah, that's the only thing is we, we would tell new people if Jackie's here don't bend over. Because she used to be the instigator. We had a couple of them that were totally funny. Like I had this one hostess that used to hostess with Barb and she was constantly cracking everybody up. And so her and Barb was doing the door together seating people on that night and, and, uh, Judy took his family back to sit them in this booth area and they got back there, there wasn't room for them. And so, Judy said to them, what are you doing? sending me seven people for a table that only seats five? And Julie says, they told me five! And Barb said, well, there's seven. She says, well, what do you want me to do? Lick their lips and stick them to the wall?

Joe & Barb Caruso: What does the community know about you? What do you think they think? I always treated them right. I always looked out for them and treated them right. And if they, we like to sponsor. Yeah, people and things that are close to our heart. You know.

What sets Caruso's apart and makes it an integral part of the community? How have you actively worked towards creating that unique identity?

Joe & Barb Caruso: Well, I think mostly the fact that we didn't do, ask our employees to do anything that we didn't do ourselves. And the fact that with our kids being involved in the schools, Lisa and Liat were both captains of the drill team at different times, we took an interest in promoting them. So we followed them all over with our portable equipment and cooked meals for the whole group and just did it because we enjoyed it and we had a band fundraising thing every year where we would sell tickets to it so they could have money for new uniforms or this or that. And I said, and I just feel like that got us involved because, uh, we, we didn't know nothing about it when we moved up here, but we realized soon after we were here that the band got the least amount of support of any of the organizations because it was a money that the school had to spend was divided up between all the different varieties of sports. And I said to the band and I feel like the band kind of took the blunt end of it, what was left and we got involved. And the more we got involved, the more we became involved without even trying because people always call us and said, can you guys do this or can you do that? We never turned them down. And a lot of the times we did it free will goodwill and wouldn't take anything for it just so we could promote them. And that in turn promoted us community involvement. That's huge. Um You know, when I first met you two, one of the questions, Barb, you asked me, I'm not sure if you remember this, but you said, have you been to our restaurant yet? And I looked at you truthfully and said not yet, but I'm gonna go and guess what? I went a few weeks later, I got there at four o'clock and it didn't open till four thirty just so happened. We got into the parking lot early and what I saw amazed me, a line of people waiting to get into your restaurant and they waited outside, not in their cars, outside, in a line, talking, laughing with each other and waiting for your doors to open. They became friends. They were more than customers. Everybody that walks through that door comes through as a customer and leaves as a friend. They just enjoy, come in there and meeting our family. We had every one of our kids worked there, all of their kids worked there. In fact, we got two granddaughters, one's a blonde and one's a brunette. And people got such a big kick out of them the way they were, they'd say, are you a Caruso? And they'd say, yeah, they say, well, you don't look alike. And so we got them t-shirts made and said salt and pepper. And so they, whenever they were working together they would wear those t-shirts that said salt and pepper. So when people would ask them if they were related, they'd say, yeah, and they turn around showing their shirt - I'm salt, she's pepper. We just had fun. We made it fun and that's the part about it that made it easy.

Joe & Barb Caruso: but we were all a part of it, our whole family and that's what makes it special to us that it grew with us. Yeah. The customers, uh we knew them all by on a first name basis. We knew when they sat down what they were going to order and you'd go back to the kitchen, say, better start somebody's here.

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