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Roberto’s Ristorante may have changed on the outside, but its menu remains traditional on the inside.
The popular Italian-style pizzeria and restaurant at 6737 Beach Drive, Ocean Isle Beach, recently underwent exterior alterations.
Chef/owner Dave Gundrum said Roberto’s sustained storm damages nearly two years ago from Hurricane Irene, which blew over the region overnight Aug. 26-27, 2011.
Gundrum said he could either replace Roberto’s stucco or go for something new. He opted for a whole new look — a brick veneer façade that “stood out really nice.”
Roberto’s has been there since 1985, dating back to when Gundrum, his sister Amy and their mom, “Mama Roberto,” stayed busy running the original pizzeria.
Amy has gone on to “retire” from Roberto’s and launch her own personal-chef enterprise, Cowgirl Catering, based in Brunswick County.
As for Roberto’s, “It’s just me now — I’m the sole proprietor,” Gundrum says.
But it’s still a family business, with a number of Gundrum’s relatives fulfilling key roles. Gundrum’s brother-in-law, Kenny Gray, makes Roberto’s renowned pizzas and bartends.
His cousin, Summer, has been with Roberto’s for 14 years. She helps manage and waits tables.
“One of my nephews is washing dishes and working his way up the chain,” Gundrum says.
And Gundrum’s mom, Mama Roberto, who turned 73 this past Monday, still stops by the restaurant every day to help in the kitchen and check up on her chef son.
Gundrum said his mom makes sure the quality is as it should be.
As for the menu, Gundrum said it’s better than ever and up to Roberto’s same high standards.
To last this long, “you can’t stay the same and you can’t get worse,” he notes. “You have to get better. We’re pretty proud of what we’re able to do.”
He said they still have the best pizza and place emphasis on traditional fare — seafood, pasta, steaks.
“I do try to keep it simple and traditional and do the best we can,” he said, opting for the basics over nouveau cuisine.
Roberto’s lasagna still has plenty of ground beef in it. The ristorante is still renowned for its high-quality Carolina crab cakes and chicken parmesan, with customers always asking for Gundrum’s secret for the latter.
“It’s a technique, actually,” he says. “Marinate the chicken awhile, bread it and fry it. The frozen product is so inferior. I’m doing a lot of little things that really pay off for me. I’m not bragging, but business is good.”
Gundrum said he has to be good, offering “atmosphere and quality at a great price. I have to have a reason [for people] to come find me.”
Through Sept. 5, Roberto’s is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. In the fall, Roberto’s business days will be cut to Tuesdays through Saturdays.
The phone number there is (910) 579-4999.
Do you know of news in the food or restaurant realm in Brunswick County? If so, send it to Food for Thought at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Laura Lewis at the Beacon at 754-6890.