Vito’s considers its guests and employees ‘family’
July 3, 2019
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
The staff at Vito’s Pizza and Italian Ristorante means it when it says it eatery has a family atmosphere.
They high-five each other, hug regulars, welcome newbies with a smile, and predict the orders of frequent visitors. General manager Giselle Moen said it’s all in a day’s work. She chalks the good-natured attitude up to owners Ryan and Alexis Vickery, who took over operations in 2009 from the founders, Vito and JoAnne Carrieri.
“I’m very fortunate to work for them,” she said about the Vickerys. “They’re wonderful people as well.”
Moen has worked at Vito’s since 1990 with Northeast Mesa as a glimmer in the county’s eye. She had just moved to the Valley from Culver City, California, and decided to approach Carrieri for a job. Her husband already worked there.
“Do you want him to quit?” she asked Carrieri. “No, we want to see both of you work together,” Carrieri answered.
Vito and his family came to the United States aboard the Andrea Doria. His dream was to open a restaurant, but he didn’t accomplish that until he was 50 with Vito’s in February 1986. Vito built the complex in which the restaurant sits.
Vito’s specializes in home-style meals created from recipes passed down over the years from Vito’s grandmothers. Using only the freshest local ingredients, along with some imported from Italy, for over 20 years Vito and JoAnne expanded on their success, creating an Italian eatery that was more than just a place to eat a meal—Vito’s was home.
Moen said Vito’s signature dish is its Chicago thin-crust pizza ($9.99-$24.79)—“without a doubt.” Other popular items are the lasagna ($15.29-$19.49), and spaghetti and meatballs ($12.39).
“We serve homemade meatballs every day,” she said. “Every morning they’re there making them.”
Guests can kick off their meals with creative appetizers like bacon-wrapped scallops ($12.49) or Italian meatball sliders ($8.99). Sandwiches are also on the menu like Vito’s cheesesteak ($9.99) or the Italian combo ($9.99). Those who want to eat light have a choice of eight salads, ranging from the garden ($4.49-$8.99) to the blackened salmon salad ($17.49).
The chef specialties include sausage-stuffed chicken $18.99) and beef stroganoff ($21.99). Pasta is its bread and butter, like rigatoni alla Vito’s ($16.29) with homemade sausage, peas and sunrise sauce; and lobster ravioli ($18.99).
Lunch specials are available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Happy hour is seven days a week, with half-priced appetizers on the patio, in the bar area and specials throughout the restaurant. Mondays sees endless pasta, and Tuesdays select wines are half off. Staff offers half-off desserts on Wednesdays, $3 crafts on Thursdays and kids eat for $3.50 on Sundays. Children will create their own pizza and receive a complimentary ice cream sundae.
The restaurant also delivers with its own drivers and has a drive-thru window facing Lindsay Road. Moen has seen the restaurant evolve.
“When I started in 1990, we didn’t even have computers,” she said. “We did all the ticket writing. We didn’t have the bar area and we didn’t have the lounge area. That came on later. We kept growing so we expanded.”
While the restaurant expanded, the kitchen did not.
“We stayed small and they do an amazing job for the volume we do,” she said. “Some of my cooks have been here for over 30 years. Some of them 18, some of them 20 years. Even the majority of our servers have been here over 18 years as well.”
“I believe the kitchen is the heartbeat of the restaurant,” she said. “Without them, we can’t do anything. People come back because of the food. People come back because the service was excellent. It’s very important to me that guests are taken care of from the minute they walk into the minute they walk out.”
It’s not all about Italian food, though. The last Saturday of each month is comedy night in the cellar, where about 60 guests have a four-course meal and see the show for $45.
Vito’s has locations in Northeast Mesa and Scottsdale. Later this year, Vito’s will open a location in Gilbert at Higley and Queen Creek roads.
“Gilbert is growing so quickly,” she said. “It’s so great. We didn’t want to go downtown. Downtown Gilbert is already busy and crazy, so we opted to go over there.”
Besides chef Joe Carusone, Moen said the secret to the success of Vito’s is its attitude.
“We treat them like family,” she said. “We’ve been here for so long that we’re all close. That’s important. We have regulars who have been coming since day one. We make sure they feel welcomed and make sure they feel part of the family.”
“I get so many hugs. It’s great. It’s the best part of my job. We give each other high fives, too.”