Chef Russo Brings Love of Authentic Italian to Restaurant Creations

March 18, 2018

The Russo’s restaurant franchise borrows heavily from old-world recipes and styles of cooking to deliver great food and memorable experiences

What is the first thing you think of when you think of Italy? Food! Tables heaped with mile-high dishes of pasta topped with fresh tomato sauce, generous slices of pizza, a carafe of wine, family, friends, endless lazy conversations.

Chef Anthony Russo, the founder and CEO of Russo’s Restaurants, remembers these experiences too, handed down from his large Italian family both in the United States and in Italy. And it is his mission to share that same feeling of joy around the table through Russo’s a restaurant ownership, operator and franchisor firm that operates under three restaurant franchise concepts: Russo’s New York Pizzeria, Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen and Russo’s Next Generation Pizza & Italian all serving authentic Italian food under the aegis of the popular Russo’s brand name.

Anthony’s passion for food started young, in his Italian grandmother’s kitchen as he helped her roll dough for cannolis, carefully wrapping it around four-inch wooden broomsticks to get the right shape before it cooked. Relatives from the old country brought their traditional ways of cooking to the Russo family home every summer. With it, Anthony learned the many fine crafts associated with authentic Italian cuisine. It was from his extended family, for example, that Anthony learned time-honored techniques to make a whole range of classic Italian dishes. The primary message for Chef Anthony was that good food required attention to detail and a great investment of care and you gladly put in the effort needed, as you cooked for the people you loved.

Chef Anthony’s family’s roots extend from Naples to Sicily and his family first set anchor in New Jersey where he became familiar with the classic taste of New York-style pizza, a twist on an old-world darling tailored for the American palate. When his folks eventually moved to Galveston, Texas, they set up shop in the city opening a fine dining Italian restaurant. Chef Anthony honed his craft here under the watchful eye of his parents and earning a chef’s distinction at just 18.

While still a young chef, Anthony opened his first restaurant, Anthony’s Pizzeria, in Clear Lake, Texas. Two more restaurants followed, this time in Houston: Cafe Anthony and Russo Cafe Anthony, an upscale Italian restaurant.

The seed for what would become the Russo’s Italian restaurant franchise was sown in 1992 when Chef Anthony opened his first Russo’s New York Pizzeria. The restaurant garnered rave reviews and became a magnet for expat New Yorkers who were craving the authentic New York-style pizzerias from back home. The concept was a runaway hit adding just the needed dash of zest to the Houston-area dining scene. All of Houston loved the authentic New York Italian food and traditional pizza and was hooked. A range of restaurant specials also keeps customers coming back.

Knowing he had hit on a recipe for success, Chef Anthony decided to expand to more locations as a restaurant franchise. Since that opening in 1992, Russo’s has helped open 45 more restaurants operating under the Italian restaurant franchise umbrella and dozens more expected in the near future. The NY pizzeria concept has proven so popular for customers craving authenticity and warmth, that the formula has also won raving fans in international markets.

Piggybacking on the dramatic success of Russo’s New York Pizzeria, Chef Anthony decided to launch a new concept that would transplant some of that old-world ambiance to a fine dining setting. And so was born Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, which offers a breathtaking variety of made-from-scratch pastas, salads, appetizers and pizza pies baked in Russo’s signature coal-fired oven. At Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, loyal customers soak in old-world atmosphere and relish authentic Italian food but they don’t have to travel far to do so. The winning recipe of great food, great service and great ambience has won Russo’s a loyal following for a long time.

Over the years, Chef Anthony has also worked to deliver the best gluten free pizza so dietary restrictions can be accommodated. More recently, Chef Anthony decided to develop a third concept that would offer the best catering options for fans on the go, Russo’s Next Generation Pizza & Italian. Loyal Russo’s fans can expect the same authentic Italian food and outstanding service that have set Russo’s apart for years.

Growing up with an extended Italian family embedded the values of great food and love of family in Chef Anthony. Today he works hard to pepper those same values in the quality restaurants he has helped nurture from the ground up. Chef Anthony understands that food is not just fuel, it is the essential ingredient to anchor great conversations and create long-lasting memories. His restaurants carry those same beliefs forward.

Every Russo’s restaurant focuses on the very best Italian food made following proprietary recipes, quality ingredients and above all—love. Chef Anthony would not have it any other way.

Learn more about Russo’s commitment to authentic Italian food and dining experiences.