Nearly 20 years ago, Steve Martorano was on his way to the airport. After moving to Coral Springs to start fresh in Florida, he decided the palm trees and early bedtimes of Coral Springs just weren't for him.
The plane taking him back to Philadelphia was already on the tarmac when he called a restaurateur friend to say goodbye. That friend told Martorano to check out Fort Lauderdale, where a little restaurant space in a strip mall off the beach was for sale. "I drove my car, I got out, I looked in the window. This is for me. If I didn't make that call, my entire life would be different," Martorano told Clean Plate Charlie when we stopped by for a first look at the renovated café.
Cafe Martorano reopens today, September 25, with a new look and a new cocktail menu. Spruced up for its 20th anniversary, it is a tribute to the cook/owner's roots and heritage.
To the left, a large black-and-white mural of Philadelphia's Italian
Market circa 1920s is featured. Look closely and you'll spot some
famous Italians Photoshopped into the scene -- John Gotti, Marlon Brando
as Don Corleone, and uncle Raymond "Long John" Martorano. To the right,
under the banquettes, a stylized cityscape of the Philadelphia skyline
dominates the wall space. What else is new at Cafe Martorano? A full
bar. After 20 years, Cafe Martorano finally has a liquor license.
says the license was a long time coming. "I was never able to have a
liquor license here because there's a bar close to the restaurant," he says. "Back
in the day, you had to be 300 feet away, and I was 85 feet away. So I
could never get it. I tried every year. No. No. No."
flailing economy and the inability of retaining customers who left after
dinner to find a spot for a few cocktails, Martorano thought that
instead of closing his doors for his annual renovations, he would close
for good this time. "I said to myself, you know what? Maybe
it's enough. Maybe after 20 years, it's time to go out like a
heavyweight fighter. Maybe it's time to shut the door. Go travel, do
my book, work with the Hard Rock, work on my show. It's hard work,
running this place. When I'm in town, I'm here. I'm not at the bar
drinking. I'm behind the line. Seven days a week. So I said to myself,
let me try for that liquor license one more time. And my attorney, Tom
Angelo, got it. He did it."
So, how will a full liquor bar change
the game at Cafe Martorano? Steve tells us he hopes the people
who come for dinner will stick around instead of searching for a nightclub. "All the
time while I'm spinning, people ask me where they can go to hear music and drink. Maybe they go to a strip club? I don't know, because
there aren't too many places to go around here. After dinner, people
don't want to keep drinking wine. They want liquor. I think maybe this
will give me another ten years. Because people will maybe come later for
dinner and stay for the entire night."
Of course, every
restaurant needs signature cocktails, and the ones at Cafe Martorano are
aptly named. Patrons will be able to enjoy cocktails like the Yo Cuz! Martini (Grey Goose vodka martini garnished with fresh mozzerella and a cherry tomato); Your Sister's Ass (Absolut Citron, Villa Masa limoncello, Cointreau, sour mix, and a "squeeze" of fresh lemon); Don't Break My Balls (Herradura tequila, amaretto, Cointreau, margarita mix, and a Grand Marnier floater); and the Gentle Don (Amaretto, Frangelico, Kahlúa, and half & half).
a new lease on life and a new cocktail menu, Martorano begins the next
phase of his restaurant career. Stay tuned tomorrow, when we talk to
the restaurateur about branching out beyond food and what plans he has
for the future.
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