Business news from the Fredericksburg region.

RSS feed of this blog

Restaurateur Vito Amato wins praise

The Caroline Chamber of Commerce named restaurateur Vito Amato as Caroline Business Person of the Year. / Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi

The Caroline Chamber of Commerce named restaurateur Vito Amato as Caroline Business Person of the Year. / Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi

Vito Amato says he likes to make people happy.

And it’s pretty clear that he does that with food, in the two restaurants he owns in Caroline County.

For 27 years, Amato and his wife, Josephine, have run Roma’s Italian restaurant in Bowling Green.

Last year, he bought The Timbers, in Ladysmith.

“When people tell you that your food is delicious—it makes me feel good,” he said.

The love Amato has for food and his restaurants extends to the Caroline community. The Caroline Chamber of Commerce named Amato its 2013 Business Person of the Year.

“Vito’s been a model businessperson for the last 25 or more years,” said Floyd Thomas, chairman of the Board of Supervisors. “He represents the true American story of an immigrant who came to America and successfully built not one but multiple businesses.”

Amato and his wife have become fixtures in Caroline, where their restaurants are popular places for business lunches, fundraisers and community events.

Originally from Carini, Sicily, Amato came to the United States when he was 23.

In Italy, his family ran a bakery for 75 years. The oldest of eight, he helped his mother after his father passed away when Vito was just 18 years old.

He helped his mother run the family bakery and went to business school, where he learned bookkeeping.

After taking a job with a big business, he decided corporate life wasn’t for him.

His brother lived in Philadelphia, and, after visiting several times, Amato fell in love with the U.S.

He moved to Shippensburg, Pa., and worked in a family friend’s restaurant. Then, three years later, he opened his own pizza shop.

He says everyone told him it would fail because it was in the middle of nowhere. But the shop succeeded.

After he met his wife, Josephine, he moved to Virginia, to be closer to her Richmond-based family.

He spoke fondly of the community in Caroline.

“They make me feel so good, it’s like a family,” he said. “You plant a seed and they grow with time and they make a fruit.”

When he bought The Timbers a year ago, he knew running that business would be a challenge. 

Amato looks for passion when he hires people to work in his kitchen.

“You can tell if they are passionate to cook,” he said.

Amato attributes his success to his wife.

“We work together—she’s a wonderful cook,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s teamwork.”

From his mother, he learned compassion and that running a business isn’t done just to make money.

“In my family, for generations, we put our heart into what we do,” he said.

His mother was honored with a similar award to his, but in Rome.

Amato sponsors several sports teams throughout the county and helps with events such as Relay for Life.

“You do good, it comes back to you. I’ve been fortunate in life,” he said.

When his father ran the bakery, World War II was raging. Amato said his father gave flour to those who didn’t have anything.

“It’s something you have in your genes, in your heart,” he said.

Running a successful business—two, in fact—is no easy task, especially in the age of the Internet.

Though he doesn’t look on the computer, his wife and children keep him in the loop about what people are writing on social media about his business. It’s hard for him not to take some of the restaurant review criticism personally.

His advice for anyone starting a new business: “They have to love what they do, especially in this business. It’s like a baby, you have to take care of it every day. It will fail if it is not taken care of.”

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413