Carmine Aitoro and his wife Joyce never intended to live in the Tri-Cities.
Aitoro was a Las Vegas card dealer and pit boss by way of New York and New Jersey.
But the couple also had eight children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren – many of whom lived in the Tri-City area.
So it was Joyce who told Carmine they should stay in the Tri-Cities to be close to everyone.
“What’ll we do?” Carmine said he asked Joyce. “She told me, ‘We’ll start a restaurant.’”
Which is what they did 10 years ago.
It’s become quite popular.
“The first reason is our style,” said Aitoro. “We don’t have a full menu. It’s just one dinner a night. It’s family style. Everything goes on the table. And we’re not fancy. There are no flowers on the table.”
The restaurant is open just Wednesday through Saturday nights.
Each night’s menu is different. For instance, on Saturday, your choice is either Baked Ziti, or Rigatoni with meatballs and Italian sausage. A small portion will feed two people, a large will feed 4-5 people, and extra large will feed 6-7.
“The recipes were from 1918 when my family first came over from Italy,” said Aitoro.
The other thing people enjoy, Aitoro says, is the character of the place with pictures all over the walls.
It’s Aitoro’s job to go from table to table to talk with customers.
“Somebody has to explain all of these pictures,” he said.
Carmine is now 81, while Joyce is 77. They have no plans of slowing down.
“There are three things to have in a good restaurant,” said Aitoro. “You have to have good food, good service, and good atmosphere.”
Carmine’s has all three.
1. Carmine’s Italian Restaurant
525 W. 1st Ave., Kennewick
2. Casa Mia
2541 W. Kennewick Ave., Kennewick
607 George Washington Way, Richland
3. Olive Garden Italian Restaurant
1420 N. Louisiana Ave., Kennewick