The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 29, 2014

Pair returns to Oneonta with Italian restaurant

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Toscana Northern Italian Grill opened in Oneonta on Feb. 13 as a homecoming of sorts for the culinary artists who own the restaurant.

Angelo Carimando and Tony Pepaj had worked together in the Oneonta restaurant business for several years when they decided to open Toscana Northern Italian Grill on Main Street in Cooperstown in June of 2012. But the men felt the pull of Oneonta.

“I would see people around, or they would come to Cooperstown, (and) tell me they wished Tony and I were back in Oneonta,” Carimando said. “There was a lot of people that missed us.”

Both Carimando and Pepaj, who are related, have a background in food service. Carimando grew up in a pizzeria and remembers many summer holidays and weekends working in the family business.

“I was in the restaurant working growing up,” Carimando said. “In kitchen doing dishes always. I learned it. I like working for myself. I almost shied away from the restaurant business at one point. You work so hard building a business and then you see there is no support — working for someone else.”

Pepaj came from a restaurant background in Florida. He owned controlling interest in a couple of restaurants in the Boca Raton area. In 2008, he came to Oneonta and work for Rick Guerrero with his nephew, Carimando, at the reopened Italian Kitchen.

When the Italian Kitchen closed for the second time, Carimando and Pepaj opened Toscana in Cooperstown. Known as a Tuscan/European fusion restaurant, the Cooperstown location has built a business serving delicacies such as escargot, frog legs and duck cassis. The Oneonta location is serving a similar menu.

In 2013, Carimando and Pepaj were driving together after a game of golf when they passed the small strip mall on Chestnut Street. Carimando said he noticed the sign indicating there was space for rent. At the same time, he saw the college students waiting for the bus and the plentiful parking in the strip mall.

“We sat there and there was like 50 students waiting for the bus,” Carimando said. “And there was all this parking. That is an issue here; you have to have enough parking.”

The restaurant, at 76 Chestnut St., seats about 70 patrons and is open seven days a week. Carimando said reservations are recommended on the weekends. The restaurant features a beer and wine menu and they have a full liquor license, but they are not serving mixed drinks yet. They hope to expand to incorporate a full bar in the restaurant by the summer.

‘We always try to use fresh produce,” Carimando said. “We visit the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market and we get produce from Jamaica Dreams Farm. We serve many of our dishes in a very rich sauce. Tony designs the menu and trains the chefs. He is really talented. A lot of people — they want to make sure Tony is cooking.”