He’s cooked traditional Italian dishes at his Fort Lauderdale restaurant for Tony Bennett, Dan Marino, Jimmy Kimmel and the cast of The Sopranos. Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian featured his baseball-sized meatballs with salad appetizer on the Cooking Channel’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate. And his made-to-order pasta is some of the best you’ve ever tasted.
But it takes more than supreme cuisine to remain a fine-dining fixture for 30 years in Broward County. We asked Steve Martorano what else, along with his menu of Italian classics and larger-than-life personality, has distinguished his three-decade run at Café Martorano (3343 E. Oakland Park Blvd.).
“We’ve reinvented ourselves every year for the past 30 years. [Typically], we will close in September for a month. Most people go on vacation. Well, I don’t go on vacation. What I do is I repaint the place, I change the uniforms, I change the menu, I change the glassware—I change every year. We spend like $70,000 a year just on those upgrades.
“You gotta realize, cuz, if you were coming to me 30 years ago, and you were 30, you’re 60 now. You’re not dancing on the bar anymore. So, I had to make sure that my clientele was always changing. Right now, much of our clientele is in their 30s and 40s. We still get the people that are in their 60s and 70s, but if I had to depend just on that, I’d be out of business. It’s good that the younger people understand the hipness, the excitement of what we’re doing.
“We’re an experience. It’s not just dinner.”