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Steve Martorano on Cafe Martorano Changes: "The Floor Alone Will Be Spectacular"

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Cafe Martorano has, once again, closed for its annual late-summer break and face-lift. The restaurant closed this past weekend and, according to owner Steve Martorano, will open around September 23.

Martorano says the time off from serving guests will give him the opportunity to do some major upgrades to the restaurant.

"Last year was just a tweak. This year, everything that I worked for all my life will come together, from floor to ceiling," he tells New Times.  

When pressed for details on the upgrades, the restaurateur/cook would only tease the changes being made to his eponymous cafe.

"I can't say. You have to have some kind of a surprise. What I can say is that it will be like walking into a time of black and white. A time of nostalgia that you don't see anymore," says Martorano. "Everyone wants to put a million dollars into what's hip and trendy. Every year, we try to be modern. This year. we're going for warmth. You're going to walk in and say, 'Wow — I'm in New York City or Boston or Philadelphia.' The floor, alone, will be spectacular."

His only hint about that spectacular floor?

"If you watch the famous restaurant scene in The Godfather, you'll get an idea of what I'm talking about."

Eagle eyes will spot classic octagonal floor tiles popular at cafés and bistros during the early part of the 20th Century.

Martorano also says that even after opening several other restaurants in Hollywood, Las Vegas, and Atlantic City, his flagship café remains dearest to his heart.

"All my places are really coming together and doing extremely well. But Oakland Park Boulevard is my first-born. My first taste of success came from there. My Fort Lauderdale restaurant will always be my first love."

That love, says Martorano, is the key, and having a restaurant works only if you treat it like a relationship.

"I feel sorry for people opening restaurants today thinking they'll make a quick buck and then failing. You have to marry yourself to a restaurant. It has to be your first love, sometimes even over your wife, your friends, and your family."

After nearly 25 years, Martorano says the hardest part of the business is taking things personally.

"I take everything to heart. You look at Yelp, and 50 percent love us and 50 percent hate us. Sinatra said if you please half the people, you're doing all right. But any negativity you put out to a restaurant can hurt a restaurant owner. It can hurt their livelihood; it can hurt their families."

Martorano also says that when the restaurant is open, working seven days a week can take its toll, but that it has its upsides too.

"You've gotta be on your game. You've gotta be perfect. That's stress. You come home, the train's still moving, and you think about the things that went right and the things that went wrong. That happens 24 hours a day. But every day, people come to see me. I must take 20 pictures a day. People come right into my kitchen. I stick to my roots, cook, and inspire."

Cafe Martorano will reopen September 24. 

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