Bringing a taste of Italy to Bartlett

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THE LITTLE ITALY CREW – The Little Italy Bartlett crew includes, from left, Patricia Nalan, Alessandro Epifanio, Alvaro Tolentino, Angelo Riccobono, Mona Riccobono, Preston Garrick, Zeke Hess, Johnathan Austin, Elizabeth Austin, Kayla Ward, Nathanial Novy, Kristopher Cloud and Estella Seaman.

One local family with Italian roots shares food and friendship with community

After only two weeks of knowing one another, Angelo and Mona Riccobono
were married and embarked on a journey that would land them in the quaint city of
Bartlett. In March of 2018, the couple took over the reigns of Little Italy Bartlett
and they have been making homemade cuisine and sharing their love of fresh Italian
food ever since.

On Monday, they shared their love story that includes their love
of food, this community and of course, one another. Angelo was born in Bayside, Queens, New York in a family originally from Palermo, Italy. Mona, on the other hand, was born in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Her family, too, had Italian roots.

The pair met in New York in December of 2008 while Mona was home for Christmas taking a break from the cruise lines where she worked in restaurants and hospitality. Angelo worked
for a plethora of high-end restaurants in New York, including, Uncle Jacks Steakhouse, Burton and Doyle and The Palm Manhattan.

The couple met at Mona’s family Christmas gathering. Her brother invited him.
One week later, the pair were engaged and one week after that, married at city
hall. Why the rush? Mona smiled, “When you know…you just know.” Ten years later, the couple
was given an opportunity to relocate to Tennessee when a family member offered
them to take over Little Italy Bartlett. The Riccobono’s jumped at the chance.

In March of 2018, Angelo and Mona took the keys and smiled proudly as they entered their own restaurant. “The experience of owning a small family business is very humbling, especially when neither of us were from Tennessee,” Mona expressed. “I wasn’t even born in the USA, but I am proud to be an American citizen.” She continued, “We feel so supported here. The entire community is amazing. Our customers have become our friends and even some,
we consider extended family.”

Things were running smoothly for the Riccobono’s and then March of this year, the pandemic hit. R e s t a u r a n t s were some of the hardest hit industries. Mona said, “Six months
feels like an eternity. My husband is working so hard. There are some weeks he works 100
hours. We are learning to adjust to new daily situations and are all looking forward to when
life can return to some type of normalcy.”

Little Italy Bartlett has done their part for the community. Since the pandemic took over, they
have partnered with charity events that have included the Salvation Army, local “It is important to support the community that supports you,” Mona said. Business has picked up
and customers have done their part to help the Riccobono family keep moving in the right direction. She said, “We are so thankful and blessed having so many customers that came to see us and order two, three and even sometimes four times a week, begging us not to close. They would tell us they didn’t want to see another empty building in their town. They did not want to see us leave. They show such love and unbelievable support, I can’t describe it. Our customers want us to succeed and are so happy for us, especially now we were voted the Best Italian Food restaurant in The Bartlett Express Readers’ Choice contest.. So many customers came and told us that they voted for us, and it’s really very, very humbling.”

Little Italy Bartlett is much more than a restaurant to the town, it’s a place to gather and share a laugh and story over freshly prepared pasta or homemade pizza and desserts. It is a place for families. That is what Mona calls her customers…she remarked, “They are a part of
the Little Italy family.” She finished, “It is a very unique and special relationship we have with our customers. They know about our lives. They are our neighbors and our friends. We are here for them at all times. We know about all of their special life events, from engagements to having babies and everything in between. We aren’t just cooking food here, we are
building beautiful relationships. Their love and support brings tears to my eyes, for real.”

Little Italy Bartlett is located at 7717 Hwy. 70 and is opened Tuesday-Thursday, until 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, opened until 9 p.m., and on Sunday, opened until 7 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

See the full story and more pictures in this edition of The Bartlett Express.