Fratelli is Italian for “brothers.” And while two are related by blood, Richard and resident wine and food authority Robert, the popular Italian eatery extends the definition to the majority of its staff. And why not? Most of the employees have been there since the first cornerstone was laid back in 2001, a remarkable achievement in a fast-paced business notorious for staff turnover.
“We have over eighteen members that have been with us between five to twenty years,” Valente boasts. “Chef Nowell runs a tight ship in the back, choosing great, fresh ingredients and coming up with wonderful specials. In the front, Tanya has the team running incredibly smoothly. She’s been my ‘work wife’ for twenty-three years and knows me inside and out. Another family friend, Simone, has been with us for twenty-five. She has incredible restaurant savvy and knowledge of the business.”
And it’s not just the staff that’s loyal. Fratelli Kanata’s customer base has remained just as faithful. “The biggest thing we’ve achieved is consistency, and for that, we can thank our incredibly loyal customers,” Valente asserts. “Many of them have been with us from Day One.”
Day One was a nerve-wracking affair, as the restaurant transitioned from its first location in that location had been established by Valente’s parents, immigrants Louisa and Pasquale. Though sons Richard and Robert were confident that the quality and character of Fratelli would survive importation, setting up shop outside of the core was a gamble. “Fratelli Kanata was a huge move,” Valente remembers. “Back then, there was a farm across the street with horses and cows, and in the distance was the Sens’ hockey rink! Plus, we opened about a week after 9-1-1. We were quite scared of what was going on in the world.”
But the surrounding community grew more cosmopolitan, as did Fratelli’s clientele. Today, Fratelli Kanata is sought out not just by locals but by people from across the city.
If Ottawa has been good to the place, the place, in turn, has been good to Ottawa. Just as Fratelli Kanata prides itself on its teeming menu, it is equally proud of its charitable contributions. Fratelli Kanata frequently auctions off dinner parties, an initiative that has raised thousands of dollars for area charities. In addition, at Christmas, the staff rallies together to sponsor designated families.
Though he’ll be reaching retirement age within the next five years, odds are you’ll still be seeing Valente at the restaurant. “I love seeing all the regulars that have made this place so special,” he declares, calling it the best reason to get up in the morning. “A big thank you to them all!”