When Franco and Piero Landini opened Landini Brothers in October 1979, the Alexandria restaurant had two dining rooms, sold a $5.95 plate of Veal Landini, and employed a young cook, Rigoberto Ramos.
Forty years later, the restaurant spans five dining rooms, Franco’s son Noe Landini runs the place, and that veal sells for almost four times the original price. But Ramos? He’s still serving up Tuscan classics, now as the restaurant’s executive chef. At a dinner tonight, diners can step back in time.
“There are people who live out of town and after ten years they come here and they come to the same food,” says Ramos. “They say oh my god, nothing has changed—because I’m here.”
It’s rare for a chef to spend their entire career in a single kitchen, but Ramos’s history with the Landinis outlasts the restaurant itself.
He started washing dishes at age 16 in another Landini joint, a pizzeria called Pellicano, before he worked his way up to flipping pies. When Ramos made the leap over to Landini Brothers, the kitchen was snug, but not necessarily crowded: it was just him and Franco, supported by a single salad-maker and a dishwasher.
“I tried to learn everything, tried to follow my boss, whatever he’s doing.” says Ramos.
He recalls standing at the carving table with Franco, veal legs dangling from the ceiling like a chandelier. The pair had to clean and chisel every cut of meat themselves because at the time, they couldn’t get specific cuts directly from the butcher.
Ramos took over the kitchen as executive chef in 1996, and his brother Santos Ramos served as sous chef.
The chef isn’t the only original employee celebrating the ruby anniversary. Bartender Susan Hergenrather has also been there from the start, pouring drinks behind a bar carved by Noe’s grandfather, a carpenter.
“We try to stay away from trends. We try to stay consistent and stick with tradition,” says Noe. “That’s something that my dad always taught—the important thing in this business is consistency.”
The restaurant is celebrating its anniversary at a dinner on Monday, October 28 featuring throwback dishes with throwback prices. Reservations are required.