Vito Amato, a restaurateur and Sicilian immigrant, has been named the Caroline Chamber of Commerce Business Person of the Year for 2013.
He received the award on Jan. 23 during a banquet of the Chamber. The 2014 Chamber president is Mary Pitts and the vice president is J.D. Satterwhite.
He and his wife, Josephine, opened Roma Italian Pizza Restaurant in Bowling Green in 1987. They have also opened other restaurants: Vito’s in Richmond, Giuseppe’s in Ladysmith, Angela’s in Thornburg and Roma’s in Fredericksburg. They also took over Timber’s Restaurant in Ladysmith.
The Chamber’s selection committee nominates a candidate and then there is a vote by secret ballot. The nominee must be a member of the Chamber, said Kim Napier, secretary of the Chamber.
In discussing Amato, the committee noted that he is “always ready to help someone who is going through a rough time,” Napier said. He was also “bold enough to open a new venture, The Timbers, in a tough economic market.” Plus, he is “humble and unassuming in his work” and had operated the same restaurant for over 26 years.
Amato was born in Carini, Sicily, a town with a history that dates back to 415 BC and is noted now for tourism and shopping malls. He was the oldest of eight children. He helped his mother in a family bakery that specialized in producing and selling especially fresh and delicious food.
A setback came when he was 18. His father died. But Amato pressed on and managed to put himself through four years of college where he studied business and accounting. He landed a job with a big accounting firm, where he worked for two years, but he was overcome with boredom.
So he visited the United States when he was 23 and liked it so much that he decided to stay. He worked with a family friend in the friend’s restaurant. Three years after arriving in the United States, he opened up his first pizza shop, the Pizza Man, in Shippensburg, Pa., and then he met Josephine in 1986. They got married, moved to Virginia, and opened Roma’s in Bowling Green.
“Vito is a hard working, passionate professional who loves food and loves to make people happy,” said Jim Day, a long-time friend. “Together with his wife, Josephine, their inspiration and their love for food have created dining experiences that combine comfortable atmosphere, fresh, simple and delicious food without pretension at a reasonable price.”
“Our restaurants are more than a business or an eating establishment,” Amato said. “They are a personal expression of our life experiences, commitments and passions. Eating in our restaurants is like spending a little time in our home. We heartily welcome you to our cozy restaurant where you will always be in the company of good friends and good food.”
On www.yelp.com, six of the seven reviews for Roma in Bowling Green are favorable. A Woodbridge couple wrote, “It is real good and fresh . Especially since there isn’t much to eat around AP Hill. Their pizzas are great and so are their salads. I ate there several times during my stay at AP Hill and had no complaints.”
A customer from Fredericksburg wrote, “I don’t know why Roma doesn’t have more reviews because this place rocks! The fried calamari was so delish!!!! My better half doesn’t usually like calamari and he was loving it. He ordered cheese steak and I ordered the special, which was a pretzel burger which was great! It was totally worth the drive from the burg to Bowling Green. We will be back! Next time I want to try some pizza and garlic knots…yum.”