Maria Palo and her husband, Louie, moved to Florida with a newborn in 1984 and soon after opened Amalfi's Italian Restaurant on Chickasaw Trail. Fifteen years and three children later, they sold Amalfi's, then opened Carnevale di Amalfi on East Colonial Drive, which became Louie & Maria's Italian Restaurant. Then Palo's kids wanted an authentic Italian deli and thus, Stasio's was born.
What effect has your personal immigrant experience had on the restaurant's evolution? I think our deli has evolved by going old-school Italian in so many ways. This whole concept is new to this area and I feel that this has come about by my children and myself having experienced the immigrant way of living here in the U.S.
For example, Stasio's has an area like you'd see in Italy where people gather to have un caffè and a small pastry and chat at the counter. We're a place where people can come to buy fresh sliced Italian cured meats and aged and fresh cheeses at the deli. And because it's a whole family working here, I find the customer relationship is being built little by little, because they feel at home when they come in. The smells that are created by making bread in-house every day also lends to the authenticity and the overall evolution of our "Immigrant in America" business.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Have you ever felt the need to compromise in order to satisfy a broader palate? I did not. I cook the way I was taught growing up ... We are full-blooded Italian, so we don't have any formal [culinary] education! My husband Louie is a self-taught cook.
How are you reducing food waste? What are you doing to make the restaurant more sustainable? In trying to reduce food waste, we cook just so much of the fresh food and when it's gone that's it. We don't make any more until the next day. As far as sustainability, we wrap all our sandwiches in paper, we buy from a produce company that buys fruits and vegetables from farmers close to Lakeland, and we also recycle.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
What was your very first food addiction? OK, so my all-time favorite addiction – because my mom always made it – is fresh bread out of the oven. In Italy with olive oil and in America with butter. My first food addiction in America was hot dogs with mustard and sauerkraut. I've never seen or heard of that in Italy. (Stasio's Italian Deli on Facebook) ▲