Jose Arita remembers frequently wandering into the kitchen area of Carerra Café in Los Angeles as a 9-year-old boy.
He can still visualize the smells, the commotion and his father, Jose Gomez, hard at work making pasta, Paninis, various breads and pizza in the Beverly Hills-area establishment.
Now, Gomez’ 20-plus years of Italian cuisine experience is making its way to Columbus with the opening of Café Di Nonno Italian Restaurant at 4704 Howard Blvd., just east of 48th Avenue in the building most recently occupied by Paradise Dance Club and previously Nagasaki Grill & Sushi. The business is tentatively scheduled to open Friday, Sept. 14.
Arita and his sister, Wendy Gomez, are acting co-owners of the business. Jose Gomez is content with his behind-the-scenes chef role turning basic cooking items into works of food art. It’s an all-around family endeavor, one that’s been a long time coming.
“Eventually he (Jose Gomez) came into part ownership with the owner there, but it wasn’t all there for us as a family – he didn’t see the good opportunity to raise kids there with how tough Los Angeles is,” Arita said. “He wanted to move to a place that was more stable and less stressful.”
In 2008, the family relocated to Schuyler and Jose Gomez started working at the local Cargill plant. It wasn’t his ideal job, he said, through Wendy, who served as a translator Friday morning. But, it provided a means to take care of his family.
Still, the dream of opening his own Italian restaurant someday remained constant.
“Basically, he’s always had hope that someday he would have a restaurant of his own, to be his own chef,” Wendy said. “He’s always envisioned it and always had hope for it. He’s worked really hard for it.”
Throughout the years, Wendy and Arita worked various jobs saving money along the way in pursuit of the dream. Arita, who has a degree in business management, went straight into the Marine Corps after high school graduation. He managed to set aside portions of his pay during this portion of his military career, which he said included two deployments in 2009, Iraq; and 2011, Afghanistan.
In early May, the building was purchased and refurbishment started.
“We always envisioned owning our own restaurant, and being that he knows the kitchen portion of it and I know the business portion of it, we figured we could combine those to do it,” Arita said. “It came to the moment where we had the budget, we made a few investments and got up to where we wanted to be.”
The restaurant features spacious seating, wood flooring and a cheerful atmosphere for patrons to enjoy their Italian meals of choice. Arita added that the owners placed a divider in the center of the establishment to provide a more intimate dining experience.
At the end of the day, though, the scenery doesn’t mean much if the food doesn’t complement the environment. Jose Gomez said he’s confident this won’t be an issue.
“It was my job for a very long time,” he reminisced of his chef days. “So for me it’s easy, it’s all in my head.”
Wendy said she’s looking forward to providing Columbus and its surrounding areas with a unique dining experience that’s different from much of what already exists.
“All of the restaurants are pretty much fast food or buffet style,” she said. “This is more of a homey environment where people will be taken care. They can sit back and we will bring the food right to them.”
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.