Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Angelo’s Civita Farnese is U.S. family business of year

Angelo’s Civita Farnese is U.S. family business of year

PROVIDENCE – Angelo’s Civita Farnese on Atwells Avenue in Providence is the longest-operating family-owned restaurant in Rhode Island, a fact that was recognized today by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Steve Preston, the SBA’s national administrator, presented the 2008 National Jeffrey H. Butland Family-Owned Business of the Year award to owner and operator Robert Antignano during a luncheon gathering at the Federal Hill restaurant, attended by Rhode Island dignitaries including Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, Mayor David N. Cicilline and U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, among others.

Antignano is the third-generation family member to own and operate Angelo’s, which opened in its existing location in 1924 and still features the original white marble tables that have seated customers for more than 80 years. He has tripled the number of employees and increased revenue by more than 300 percent since taking over the business in 1988.

“Robert Antignano epitomizes the hard work, risk-taking and the creativity that are characteristics of successful American entrepreneurs,” Preston said.

“Family-owned small businesses are a vital segment of our economy because they provide the continuity and long-term benefits that are so important to their customers, their employees and their communities,” said Sandy Blitz, the SBA’s New England regional administrator, based in Boston, who also was present for today’s event.

Antignano told the Providence Business News that he was “very honored” and “very surprised” by the award, recounting how exciting it has been to first win the SBA award on the state level, then the regional level and now, the national.

His grandfather through marriage, Angelo Mastrodicasa, opened the restaurant, naming it for himself and Farnese, a small village 12 miles west of Rome where he came from, Antignano said. (“Civita” means community.)

Mastrodicasa in the 1920s envisioned a restaurant for the working people of Federal Hill, an ideal Antignano pursues to this day, the SBA said, by keeping prices affordable and maintaining the integrity of the food and service.

Antignano said he still works in the kitchen “every day, seven days a week,” whenever he is needed and his wife, Rosalie Antigano, does the paperwork.

“It’s a fun place to work,” said waitress Katie Howard, who has been at Angelo’s for three years. “He’s a family guy,” she said of the owner and “it’s basically because of him” that Angelo’s has become such a Rhode Island tradition. He is a good boss, she said, citing as an example the way he arranged for parking spaces for employees in a nearby church lot.

Antignano will officially receive the award in Washington, D.C., on April 23, during the national Small Business Week celebration. Today’s gathering was arranged because Preston was in the area, visiting small business throughout Rhode Island.

For information about the U.S. Small Business Administration and its programs, call the SBA’s Rhode Island office at 528-4561 or visit www.sba.gov.

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