They grew up around their grandfather, who they remembered as an extraordinary Italian cook. Their grandfather once owned his own restaurant in Albania, right next to Italy, where the traditions between the two countries are generally shared.
Cousins Labinot Gashi and Njazi Hoxha, co-owners Italian kitchen Rome at Tyler, remember studying the family cooking trade from their earliest days.
“I started making spaghetti with marinara sauce, from scratch, everything was fresh. That’s how we were taught, from our grandfather, ”said Gashi.
While growing up, Gashi remembers one dish that his grandfather had specialized in.
“One of the best dishes is of course spaghetti and meatballs, because you can try a little each, such as meatballs, meat sauce and pasta,” he said.
Their restaurant name comes from the city of Rome in Italy.
“It has a tradition and that’s why we stick to the town’s name,” said Gashi.
This was not the cousin’s first business venture. They first set up their restaurant in New York 15 years ago. About 10 years into their business, two more of their cousins set up their first restaurant in East Texas. The family also runs Italian kitchens in Italy and Albania.
In total, the whole family owns about 20 restaurants.
“We love working with people, we love our clients, we love making food for them and that’s what keeps our business,” said Gashi.
During Gashi’s day-to-day operations, he served as kitchen manager.
“Most of the time I was the one in charge of the kitchen, who made sure the food came out of good quality, I checked every dish quite often, and most of the time I was in the kitchen controlling all the employees,” he said.
When Gashi worked in the kitchen, he had high expectations for the quality of his food.
“We make pasta here and there and there is a lot of work to be done in the kitchen. We have our recipes, we follow all of our recipes. I just give recipes to employees and tell them, ‘It has to be done this way’ and I just make sure they do the right job, “says Gashi.
Everyday Hoxha has the same duties as Gashi. The cousins did a lot of preparation in the morning, setting up the kitchen and restaurant and making reservations.
When guests visit Roma’s, they can expect a good and spacious restaurant. There is a private dining room available for those who wish to hold private events.
“There’s a baby shower they do there, birthday celebrations or even bachelorette parties. I think it’s more of a family-oriented restaurant, ”said Hoxha.
There is also a piano player playing classical music. Restaurants usually see more family crowds on weekends and afternoons, and the owners strive to provide excellent customer service.
Hoxha said it was important for the Tyler community to visit local restaurants rather than chain restaurants.
“I think quality comes to play. We make everything from scratch, we don’t use microwaves or anything like that. We don’t reheat food, everything is made from scratch; sauces, pastas, food, everything. We use fresh parsley, fresh garlic, Italian herbs and that’s the quality, in my opinion, “said Hoxha.
Hoxha said the environment and staff are different from a typical Italian company restaurant.
“We see them (employees) as family. They all get one to two free meals per day. Some of them don’t have rides so we take care of them, help them get home, and come back. They have problems like the one you are experiencing right now. We try to help them by giving some money here and there, before the salary can be received. We treat them like family, ”said Hoxha.
The owner recommends scheduling a reservation, but a walk-in is available. The restaurant has the potential to officially serve alcoholic drinks at the bar starting next week.
“To be honest, we are very happy. We are very happy to be here. Growing up, we used to do all of these things, like cooking at home, learning a few dishes, like my cousin said, lasagna or spaghetti and meatballs. Now we do business because we know that past and we love doing this, “said Hoxha.
The kitchen opened its doors in Tyler for the first time in late February.
“This is extraordinary. A lot of enthusiasts, very generous people, very kind people. We have met many people and many more have to come as they told us they will be here soon. So we’re still trying to get to know everyone, “said Hoxha.
The couple’s cousins in Longview, who also own the Italian Kitchen in downtown Longview, occasionally come to visit them in Tyler.
“We’ve been doing this for years, we’ve been in business for over 15 years now in New York City, with the experience we have, we’ve lived in New York City, Italy, Albania, and now we’re here on business. , we love it here. We love how the community treats us, they help us with everything, they really support us, so we are planning to build an empire here, so hopefully we will be here for many years or hopefully forever, “said Hoxha.
The family hopes to continue growing in Texas in particular, which has treated them so well, they said.
They hope their children will continue the family tradition.
“I started (cooking) at the age of 10, so I hope they start earlier,” said Hoxha, who doesn’t have children of her own.
Rome opening hours, located at 3320 Old Troup Highway Suite 170 in Tyler, are from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery service is available to order food from restaurants, such as DoorDash, Waitr, Slice and Grubhub.