Ten women of mixed ages hired as waitstaff are getting a tutorial on the computerized cash register. Three muscular guys are shouldering cases of iced teas and sodas for stocking in the refrigerators. Cooks are hearing final changes to the menu.
Owners Angelo Duva and Roger Parrillo are hot on the heels of rolling out Cinnaminson’s newest restaurant, Zio’s Tuscan Grille, slated for an opening on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
The guys are resolved to add to the niche of new eateries recently moving into the township.
The Italian restaurant has settled into a space in the Plaza on Route 130 formerly housed by Palombo’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria. But, very little remains from the prior restaurant.
The modern interior has been revamped with a dark, classic beadboard beneath walls the color of lemon. Brown cafe tables and chairs are assembled amid moss and eggplant-colored booths. A granite counter with stools frames the front brick oven.
The ambience is laid-back and cozy and can easily feed around 120.
Both Duva and Parrillo are experienced restauranteurs. Duva has owned linen-clad Marco Polo Restaurant in Elkins Park, PA, for six years. For eight years, Parrillo has been the master at Rustic Grille in Medford.
The men have know each other for years. But this is their first collaboration, if you don’t count their family connection—the men are married to sisters. Hence, the restaurant's name Zio, which translates to uncle in Italian.
“The hardest part was coming up with the name," says Duva, 54, an affable guy, whose speech is lightly peppered with an accent from his early upbringing in Italy. “But Zio seemed appropriate—between us, we have six kids."
Parrillo—who originally hails from Chestnut Hill, PA, and spent some time in the construction business—says that he has worked on the logistics of the project, while Duva has concentrated mostly on the food.
“We both have been involved in restaurants and thought we would join forces this time,” Parrillo, 44, says, the more reserved of the two. “We have each brought our strengths."
He adds, “It takes a lot of hours to open a restaurant.”
Both Duva and Parrillo say it’s been nearly a year of planning and working with the township—of which they both say was an uncomplicated endeavor.
“I had tried to open a place in Moorestown about 25 years ago,” Duva says of their choice to open in Cinnaminson and not Moorestown—where the men reside with their families. “But at the time they didn’t want any restaurants opening on Main Street.”
“As soon as we knew we wanted to open a spot in Cinnaminson, the township was very accommodating,” Parrillo says.
Both owners were pleased to see the building owners add curbing, install new lights and repave the blacktop in the strip mall.
Duva—who immigrated to the States from the Campania Region of Italy with his parents when he was 19—began working in restaurants when he was 12. He attended Drexel University for two years, and then decided to return to the restaurant scene.
A good restaurant owner knows the difference between just cooking and really satisfying his customers, says Duva, who has hired 25 locals to work in the cafe.
“In my restaurant in Elkins Park, we use fresh foods and cook our pastas to order, which we will do here,” Duva boasts. “With something this personal, you have to get it right.”
Zio’s menu toes the delicate line of tasty dishes prepared at reasonable prices.
Duva and Parrillo will be hosting all types of pizza. At less than $10, salads, burgers, hoagies, and hand-carved steak sandwiches will be offered.
Some signature entrees will be the pork chop milanese and Zio’s roasted chicken. Freshly grilled salmon and flounder francaise will be served with roasted vegetables. Entrees will range mostly from $10-$23.
“I’m telling people to go out and vote this Tuesday,” Duva says laughing, “grab a bottle of wine and then come here and eat.”