Serving Meals Straight from the Italian Peninsula
Angelo & Julie Manco
An authentic Italian food experience is hard to find but not in Lake County with Angelo's Italian Restaurant in Tavares. Serving the freshest pasta, salads, seafood, and more, Angelo's resembles more of a traditional Italian family dinner than a typical restaurant dining experience.
"I think what makes this place unique is the type of cooking we do," says Angelo Manco, owner and Angelo's namesake. "We prepare a lot of recipes here every morning with fresh sauces, pasta and dough and we don't just buy ingredients to prepare in the microwave."
Angelo is originally from Naples, Italy and has spent 27 years in the restaurant business in Italy and the United States. He first opened Naples Italian Restaurant in Leesburg, followed then with the opening of Angelo's in 2000.
"I was born and raised in Naples, Italy so I was always working and getting recipes from different regions of Italy," says Angelo when describing the menu choices at his restaurant.
Customers can cater their appetites to the menu, from having a gourmet mixed garden salad for a lighter meal to the Stuffed Ravioli with Mushrooms or the Shrimp Scampi for a heartier dish. Meals also come with a plate of Angelo's signature garlic rolls and can be accompanied with a delicious glass of wine from the restaurant's extensive bar.
The feeling of family unity can also be found with the bond Angelo and his wife Julie share with their staff.
"Julie and I are thankful for our employees for all they do for us and for making us a successful business," Angelo says.
As for the future, Angelo hopes to continue providing guests from Clermont to Mount Dora with original recipes and a welcoming restaurant atmosphere.
Family Serves Up Taste of Naples
Anthony DiDonato began a Central Florida dynasty;
relatives soon followed with other Italian restaurants
By Kelly Brewington
The Lake Sentinel, Monday, February 28, 2000
A touch of tradition, a pinch of persistence and a whole lot of talent has enabled a Lake County family to open a successful series of homestyle Italian restaurants.
Direct from Naples, Italy, the Manco/Foglore/DiDonato families - all of whom are related - have been running some of Lake County's most popular Italian restaurants for more than 20 years.
In all, they own Luigi's in Eustis, Vincent's and Mount Dora Pizza and Subs in Mount Dora, Naples in Leesburg, as well as the soon-to-open Angelo's in Tavares.
The dynasty started with Anthony DiDonato, who at 14 left Naples with his mother and seven brothers and sisters for Bayonne, NJ. As a young man, he worked as a barber, an apprentice in a bicycle shop, and other jobs before deciding on a whim to try the restaurant business.
"I figured maybe I'd teach myself to make pizza and do something in the kitchen," he said.
Leaning on only the experience from what he observed in his mother's kitchen, DiDonato learned the craft from other experienced restaurant owners. While in New Jersey, he learned his own cooking style, but it would still be years before he would go into business for himself.
After working at several pizza shops in New Jersey, DiDonato moved to St. Petersburg, longing for warmer weather much like that in his native Naples. But after working grueling 12-hour days at one shop, he moved to Orlando to open a small pizza shop with a friend.
Years later, DiDonato invited his brother-in-law Vincent Folgore, also from Naples but living in Bayonne, to move south and work with him. The pair owned a restaurant in Pine Hills and later Mount Dora Pizza and Subs, one of the first Italian restaurants in the city. After 24 years, it still stands at 2718 W. Old U.S. Hwy 441.
But that was just the beginning. In all, DiDonato has owned five Italian restaurants in Lake County, all of which apecialized in typical southern Italian cuisine and, of course, pizza, Naples' most famous food. DiDonato retired eight years ago after selling the popular DiDonato's in Tavares.
The success of Mount Dora Pizza and Subs attracted Folgore's brother Pasquale Folgore and his family. Later, Vincent Folgore would open Vincent's and Pasquale Folgore would open Luigi's, named for his son.
The youngest of the clan to follow in the family's footsteps was Angelo Manco, 37, who came to Lake County directly from Naples 13 years ago. Manco is Pasquale and Vincent Folgore's cousin.
Manco, in contrast to the others, spent much of his young life yearning to be in the restaurant business. He went to college and later to cooking school in Germany for two years. Along the way, he learned English, French and German.
Manco came to Lake County with a dream, but had to work for what he got. He worked as a cook at Vincent's saving up money for years and never looking for a handout. Manco was a young boy when his cousins left for New Jersey and knew them only through family stories. When he arrived in Lake County, there was no hand-holding, no passing on of family recipes. Being the youngest of the clan, Manco had to prove himself.
"I worked for $4.25 an hour and I worked my way up," Manco said. "I've always been pushing to get to this point."
Hard work earned the entire family successful businesses in a time when Italian fare in Lake was hard to find.
"I didn't even know what Mount Dora was before I got here," said DiDonato. "There were only a couple of [Italian] restaurants and Pizza Hut, and that was about it."
Although Mount Dora was a tiny town in the midst of orange groves, DiDinato and the other men said they didn't miss the hustle and bustle of New Jersey. Naples, however, would always be on their minds.
"You have pictures in your mind of what was left behind," DiDonato said. "But I love this country. I have a satellite dish and I can get programs from Naples and other Italian TV shows."
The walls of Manco's restaurant Naples are covered with paintings and photos of landmarks of the coastal city, as well as photographs of famous Neapolitans including actress Sophia Loren and comedian Antonio DeLaurentis (who according to Manco is considered the Charlie Chaplin of Italy.)
"I will always miss it," Manco said of Naples. "There is no place like it."
Each man wanted to make his restaurant more than just a pizza shop. The latest restaurant, Angelo's, which is slated to open in April, is one example. The eatery will be slightly upscale in atmosphere, with a banquet room for parties, but Manco will stick to the same $5-$11 dinner price range as Naples restaurant. He will serve more than pizza and typical pasta dishes, including grilled seafood, steak, and vegetable dishes.
At Naples, Manco frequently offers daily specials of authentic dishes from his native Naples that may not be familiar to American customers. One of them is his mother's recipe called Braciole, a thin flank steak stuffed with garlic, parsley and Parmesan cheese, rolled in a cylinder and served with pasta and tomato sauce.
'[Customers] love it," he said. "I sell it all when I make it."
Manco, who is picky about the food he eats, imports all the pasta, cheeses and tomatoes he cooks with at the restaurant directly from Italy.
The men have served any satisfied customers over the years, a lot of them regulars who come back for the homemade, authentic food.
"We never have to advertise," said Pasquale Folgore. "People find out by word of mouth. If you have a good thing you don't have to advertise."
What began on a whim by DiDonato has proved successful and satisfying.
"I take pride in what I do," he said. "We all do."