Villaggio Italiano has been a staple of the greater Westchester New York area for over 38 years. This family owned business, nuzzled in Hartsdale, has been providing authentic Italian cuisine for decades. But that’s not all that Villaggio Italiano is known for: owners Robyn and Danny Santiago are a couple of former employees who met, married and purchased this beloved restaurant. The couple to this day own and operate the restaurant with a philosophy of family and loyalty. When a restaurant changes ownership, usually the first thing to go is the staff; but for Robyn and Danny, the staff was family.
Danny started working for Villaggio Italiano in 1989, Robyn walked in those doors 10 years later looking for a part time job. She worked there for a year as a bartender and then moved to Hawaii. Four years later Robyn returned and asked for her job back. The owner pointed at Danny and the rest is history.
The two dated for six years both working at the restaurant together and tied the knot in 2012. Then the idea popped in their head of purchasing their beloved spot. “In 2014 Danny and I started talking about the idea of it. Not knowing whether we could make it happen financially or not, we would revisit the idea from time to time but never knew it was a possibility until 2015” said Robyn. In 2015 Robyn and Danny purchased Villaggio Italiano and the response was unbelievable. “I think because of the relationships Danny and I have built with our customers, now friends, over the last three decades, the support from everyone has been tremendous. Customers give us input on positive changes, things they’ve always wanted to see, they come in more often to support us and we support our customers and their families & businesses as well ” said Robyn.
In 2015 the couple began their journey of owning a restaurant and kept it running successfully. We wanted to know exactly how they were able to keep the restaurant so successful and they thanked the previous owner Lou and Mario, who owned Villaggio Italiano for 38 years. “They tried all the different food distributors until they found the best, fresh seafood is delivered to the restaurant, fresh produce and I remember Papa Lou (what we all call him) saying to me, I have gone thru all the vendors and have selected the best ones with the highest quality product, don’t deter from that. You already have quality and if you continue with what we have and you do it right, you will succeed. We listened & he was right” said Robyn.
Customers love that nothing has changed. Our staff and chefs are all still the same for the last three decades. We also added social media marketing which we believe was needed as well as a bigger online presence” stated Robyn. The couple were not going to stop there, they began making small addition and changes that made Villaggio Italiano invaluable. Robyn and Danny added live jazz every Thursday, happy hour 7 days a week, live entertainment on holidays, and a core foundation of family.
The couple have such a respect and care for their staff and family that they will cover shifts if they need time off, on birthdays and holidays they invite the our staffs families over for dinner. The pair believe if your staff is happy then your customer will be too.
Robyn and Danny have championed an iconic spot and turned into their family spot. There is a lot to learn on how to run a restaurant from these two and they had no problem sharing their knowledge. For the pair it was simple “It starts with your staff. Working together as a family. Selecting quality over quantity when it comes to the food we bring in. Catering to our customers. Welcoming suggestions but staying true to our core. Adding new but keeping the old.”