Vol. 12, No. 6 March 25 - April 7, 1999



     
 

Forty-Five Years of Home Cooking at Monte D'Oro's

By JOSEPH McDONOUGH

The first thing you notice about Monte D'Oro's, the Italian restaurant Carmine Rubbo has run with his wife Ada for 45 years in Fordham Bedford, is the pictures. The walls of the restaurant are covered with them. While there's an occasional famous face like Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer or former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, most of the faces are people you don't recognize.

Rubbo proudly displays photographs of his regular customers in his East 198th Street eatery as if they were pictures on the walls of his home. That's because to Carmine and Ada and the people they've fed over close to a half century, Monte D'Oro is home.

"You could easily walk right by the place," says Joe Arcoleo, a semi-retired French teacher who teaches at Mount St. Ursula. "It's the best kept secret in the Bronx. I come here often and I bring my French Club students here. Carmine makes you feel at home. He pays close attention to each person and when you talk to him you're talking to a friend. I love it here. His linguini with red clam sauce is great and if the clams are not fresh, he won't serve them. He does all of his market shopping himself."

"The way I cooked the food 43 years ago I cook the same or better now," says Carmine, a self-taught chef. "I have tried to change the menu but my customers won't allow me to. They want what they always loved."

There's a lot to love. Listen to another Monte D'Oro fan:

"As businesses become more institutionalized, there are fewer and fewer places where you actually know the people who operate and own the business," says Ed Yaker, another regular. "Monte D'Oro is truly a mom-and-pop store. It's not a restaurant. I feel like I'm getting great home-cooked food."

Carmine and Ada met and married in their hometown of Corcone, Italy, and emigrated to America over 45 years ago. Carmine worked at his first business at 137th Street and Willis Avenue, took time off to get married and then bought his cozy restaurant, just a hop from the Grand Concourse, a few years later. Though it took a good bit of work turning around the run-down business they took over, success came quickly.

"We put a lot of work into it but we got a lot of pleasure out, a lot of good memories," says Ada, who describes East 198th Street in the early years as "Fifth Avenue in the Bronx."

Why did they stay in one place for so long? "I was making enough money to raise my family," Carmine said. "I decided not to expand or move. I did not want to be a millionaire. My loyalty was to my friends. The children helped me in the place." The Rubbos have three children and eight grandchildren.

Ada talks of the many "wonderful people" that have called the restaurant home over the years and says they're still coming cops and lawyers, teachers and professors. "We still have beautiful customers," she says.

Customer loyalty was on full display when Carmine was hospitalized last year for a heart attack. "I would get a basket of fruit or flowers every day," Carmine says. "Phone calls from everywhere, even South America."

Carmine is taking it easy now, but four days a week the couple still rustles up and serves eggplant rollatini, shrimp scampi, chicken francese or any of the other dozens of delectable dishes on the menu.

"I could never have done all this without my wife," says Carmine affectionately. "I give her a lot of credit for all she had to take care of."

And what about the future? How long will Monte D'Oro go on? "I would like to stay here until I'm 68 or 69 years old, a few more years. Then," Carmine says smiling, "I'll spend all of my time with the grandchildren."

Jordan Moss contributed to this story.

Monte D'Oro's is located at 211 E. 198th St., between the Grand Concourse and Valentine Avenue. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. All major dishes including the pizza pies are cooked to order. Phone ahead for takeout, 584-3455. Main entrees are in the $10 - $13 range, sandwiches $4 - $5, Pizza $9 - $13.

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