Business Spotlights

Business Profile: Ristorante Spadafora, Mahopac

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Antonino Cannavo sits inside his new restaurant Ristorante Spadafora welcoming and talking comfortably with customers throughout the night.  DAVID PROPPER PHOTO
Antonino Cannavo sits inside his new restaurant Ristorante Spadafora welcoming and talking comfortably with customers throughout the night.

Walk into Ristorante Spadafora on any given evening, and it’s easy to feel like family.

Inside the Mahopac restaurant, an intimate space owned by Antonino Cannavo, a family atmosphere awaits for hungry customers ready for appetizing Italian and Sicilian food and a welcoming smile from a friendly staff that money can’t buy. On a strikingly chilly evening, warm soup is offered to one customer looking to warm his bones and the conversation that follows with Cannavo makes the night even more enjoyable.

“What the community has done for me so far, I’m glad I did come back,” Cannavo said. “I’m enjoying this quite a bit. That was one of the reasons I wanted to come back, the ability to speak to people. We talk a lot about food. For me, that’s what makes it fun.”

“My guests come in, they feel that and enjoy that,” Cannavo went on to say. “I just ask that they come back once again. I don’t have to do the invite, they know the invitation is always open.”

After being away from the day-to-day pleasure of running a restaurant, Cannavo, who had previously been in real estate and construction management, bought the former Ariano’s Trattoria almost three months ago and renamed it Ristorante Spadafora. Hailing from Yonkers, Cannavo has been a familiar face to the patrons of the establishment, and has kept employees from the previous owner who already knew community members to cement the welcoming atmosphere.

When he bought the place, Cannavo opted to keep the “original kitchen,” meaning “not the stoves, but the individuals behind it.” The restaurant has a head cook and headwaiter the community knows, which has helped in the transition.

Cannavo has also kept the menu the same, cooking much of the food with a wood fire oven. He said it was a “no-brainer” to hold onto old recipes so customers expect the same high quality of food instantly. Going forward, he hopes to add and alter the menu to include more of the foods he considers his specialties.

One special dish he wants to add is spiedini, which for a real Sicilian, Cannavo said, it a veal cutlet breaded lightly with the addition of parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper and cooked in a wood oven. The type of oven and simple ingredients brings out the most flavors, Cannavo, who has no formal training but became an spectacular cook from his strong Italian and Sicilian upbringing, something all the training in the world can’t replicate.

“I would consider that my major recipe that I’m going to present to the community,” he said. “I’ve already had people say they can’t wait to find out what I have on my specials on Friday and Saturday.”

This isn’t the first restaurant Cannavo has owned and like past establishments, Cannavo prides Ristorante Spadafora on being a “quint” restaurant. According to him, smaller is actually better.

The main dining area holds roughly 30 people, which is actually double the size of any of Cannavo’s past businesses. An outdoor patio when the weather warms up will also seat more customers.

With a smaller space and cozy feel, Cannavo expects Valentines Day to be busy.

“They enjoy the feel of the dining room, the wood oven,” he said. “It gives you an aroma that reminds everyone of home.”

Ristorante Spadafora is located on 18 Clark Place in Mahopac and its phone number is 845-621-0137.

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