NILES, Ohio – Santino Guerrieri has worked around food since he was 14 years old. His first job was as a bus boy for his cousins at Giangelo’s Pizzeria Italian Restaurant and Bar.
Guerrieri recently opened his own business, Tino’s Italian Kitchen, at 815 Youngstown-Warren Road in Niles.
It is, as Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz puts it, “an Italian Subway.”
The food is displayed at the counter, where noodles, vegetables, meats and sauces fill the pans. When a customer orders, the noodles are put into a pasta cooker and the meat is cooked just behind the counter. When everything is finished, it’s thrown into a container, cheese or other toppings are added and the order is complete.
“We wanted to give the customer the feeling of getting a fresh, hot meal. It’s just a bit quicker than you would get at other restaurants,” Guerrieri says.
Guerrieri attended Ohio State University. While in Columbus, he noticed the lack of hot dog shops around the college town. So he opened a hot dog cart, his first venture into entrepreneurship.
“We did bacon-wrapped hot dogs. We did homemade chili. We did all kinds of different toppings and we had a blast,” Guerrieri says.
Eventually, he made his way back to Youngstown and his hot dog cart appeared in Youngstown. He would set up shop on West Federal Street in front of what is now Prima Cucina Italiana Restaurant. During the week, he’d serve lunch. On weekends, Guerrieri would be out until 3 a.m. serving those imbibing in downtown’s bars.
When Guerrieri heard of an opening in the Niles Park Plaza, he jumped at the opportunity. He invested $60,000 into renovating the former Spinners Sub Shop space into Tino’s Italian Kitchen.
The business opened July 23 and response has been positive. Guerrieri hired a dishwasher, but his girlfriend and family members take on all other responsibilities throughout the week.
“My girlfriend’s here on the weekends, my mom pops in and out – she helps us roll meatballs. You’ll even see my grandmother roll in on the weekends and help us roll meatballs,” he says.
“We’re officially open. I officially have my little restaurant,” Guerrieri says. “We’re officially fulfilling my dream.”
Pictured: Santino Guerrieri prepares to cut the ribbon at his new restaurant, Tino’s Italian Kitchen in Niles.