Dream Comes True with Opening of Tino’s Italian Kitchen

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. He and his family celebrated the ribbon cutting Tuesday .

Tino’s Italian Kitchen is a fast-casual restaurant. 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 little 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. He opened a hot dog cart a little while later, 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 Italian 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 you have a hot dog cart, and you don’t have a kitchen or a brick-and-mortar, it’s more difficult,” Guerrieri says. “You have to source your own products, you have to do all the work yourself. It’s not big enough to have multiple people unless you’re very busy.”

The cart, however, gave Guerrieri lessons in time management and provided a different perspective on the food industry. 

Joining Tino’s Italian Kitchen owner Santino Guerreri, center, at the ribbon cutting fare Niles Mayor Steven Mientkiewicz, Emma Vickers, his brother Gino Guerrieri and his mother Terese Richey.

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 thas 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.

Guerrieri said he wanted to keep the staff small as he oversees a business for the first time. Once he has more experience and customers under his belt, he will look into hiring more help.

“We’re officially open. I officially have my little restaurant,” Guerrieri says. “We’re officially fulfilling my dream.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.