BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- It has been a staple in the Binghamton community since 1946, when the restaurant, Little Venice, first opened in a house downtown.
"People know us about the art, our food, our sauce, our meatballs. Most of the different politicians, dignitaries, people have come, they've heard about it, they've sent people here and I think we're part of the community," said Bernadette Lisio, the office manager.
When customers first enter Binghamton's oldest Italian eatery, they immediately notice the more than 150 signed paintings on display from the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. A highlight for many -- Binghamton Artist Armondo Dellasanta's historic scenes depicting the city in the 1960s and 70s.
"Customers say they feel like they're eating in the Louvre," said Lisio.
This unique decor came from previous owner Rocco Carulli's passion for the arts. When Carulli passed away in 1986, his family took over the restaurant.
"I think it feels like home. We are family run and operated. Someone from our family is here every day. I think it makes it more of a local gem as opposed to a chain or something that's run by corporate management," said Gina Minichino, the general manager.
Lisio says the customer loyalty speaks for itself.
"I mean you can tell from families who have moved away and we're forever shipping sauce all over and now we're bottling it. We've made so many people happy," said Lisio.
"We have regulars that are here like clockwork," said Minichino.
Among many others, one customer favorite is not the meatballs, but the meat logs.
"Aunt Carmella instead of making meatballs, she formed our meatballs in the shape of logs like a sausage. She always said that way they would cook better so the center isn't raw or the meatballs didn't get overcooked," said Minichino.
Meat logs are certainly not the only delicious item Little Venice has a reputation for.
"Since day one we've been known for our original sweet sauce, only been made by four people since then," said Minichino.
"The sauce has always been the same recipe, our soups are all homemade, our salad dressings are homemade, we make our own pasta, we make our own raviolis, our own lasagna. So it's kind of unusual in this day and age. We haven't cut the corners, we're still making everything in house," said Lisio.
While customers can count on the consistent food and decor, Little Venice is currently at its fourth location. In October, the restaurant opened its new dining room.
"It was time to update, just to kind of modernize and keep up with the times and also for functionality. We've been operating in this location since 1961 without a major renovation so just to be more functional, more practical, and more efficient for our guests," said Minichino.
And that's not the only improvement in Little Venice's future. The restaurant's fourth private room will open in the next couple of months and the owners are planning a kitchen expansion as well, so that the establishment can provide delicious Italian meals for years to come.