The Rago and Saccomanno family has been very busy over the past few years, taking their already wildly popular restaurant brand and expanding into even more tasty ventures. Business in Edmonton magazine caught up with Carmelo Rago, Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group’s president and CEO, to learn what’s on the menu.
“Five years ago, I decided to make the bold move to add a new concept to the existing Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group,” says Rago. “This was mainly planned for the new generation of the family. Since all four of our sons, Maurizio, Carmelo Jr., Pasquale and Antonio, have made the decision to pursue their careers in the family business, it was important to move ahead with a more modern concept. Hence, the Buco Pizzeria + Vino Bar, a concept which is very contemporary, chic, and casual for all age groups. To date we have three locations.”
The locations of Buco Pizzeria + Vino Bar are in St. Albert, Epcor Tower downtown and Windermere.
Hailing from Avellino, which is near Naples, Italy, Rago is familiar with authentic pizza and is happy to share with Edmontonians and area the authentic Italian food at Buco. Here diners will find, in addition to pizza, assaggini (small plates), antipasti (appetizers), zuppa and insalate (soup and salads), griglia (grill), pasta (made in-house) and panini. Of course, no visit to Buco is complete without finishing the meal with another made-in-house staple: dolci (desserts)!
Buco pizzas are made Neapolitan style, made with just 00 flour, yeast, salt and water. The only things stretching and tossing the pizza dough are the hands of the chefs. No mechanical implements are used, not even a rolling pin. After this hands-on tender loving care, the pizzas are topped and baked in a classic birch-wood oven.
To bring even more of Italy to Edmonton and area diners, Buco uses as many denominazione di origine protetta (aka D.O.P., protected designation of origin) items as possible. That means, the tomatoes, olives and even the cheese come directly from Italian farmers and artisans that are still using old world methods of food production. You can literally taste the authenticity and love of these artisan’s crafts in every single bite.
There is, however, one item on the menu that is a much more modern invention, one that has gluten-intolerant diners rejoicing: gluten-free pizza. Carefully constructed so that everyone can enjoy a delicious pizza, Buco uses gluten-free Italian flour to create a pizza with the taste and texture gluten-intolerant diners crave.
The Rago and Saccomanno family may be innovating in the kitchen, but the delicious foods, Italian coffee and wine at Sorrentino’s, Buco Pizzeria + Vino Bar, Bistecca Steakhouse + Wine Bar and Caffè Sorrentino are just a few of the reasons behind the restaurant group’s success. At every stage in the journey, the family has realized the importance of moving with the times and being proactive, not reactive, to the changes that affect the hospitality industry.
“With the present economic challenges in our industry, future expansion plans are on hold,” admits Rago. “Labour costs have been pushed up by minimum wages, food prices are forever increasing, carbon tax, etc. The challenges are felt by everyone and as a result, the consumer is spending less.”
“However, that doesn’t mean the existing locations are slowing down, in or out of the kitchen,” continues Rago. “It just means that we need to manage our business more diligently and look at alternative ways to work with what we have without comprising quality and job security.”
“This year we are celebrating our 40th anniversary!” smiles the patriarch. “We have come a long way since 1979 when my late father-in-law, Maurizio Saccomanno, and I naively embarked on this venture. Maurizio sadly passed away in 1991 but his spirit continues to guide us in every way, and I hope he is proud of what the family has accomplished together.”
“We are a local family-owned restaurant group that puts community first. With the help of all of our family members, in particular my brothers-in-law, Frank and Matteo Saccomanno, and our extended family of great and talented staff, our group has been able build and maintain a splendid reputation over the past 40 years. We continually strive to provide the best ingredients for delicious food at reasonable prices, contemporary surroundings and honest, family-like service and atmosphere.”
“Each of our restaurants are similar but hold their own personalities. This is attributed to the great team members at every location. Each brings to the table their own personality and caring work ethic, which is a prerequisite to our company.”
The Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group experience doesn’t end with dinner. “We have the creativity and are marketing-minded to introduce different festivals, wine dinners, cooking classes, charity events, competitions and more to separate ourselves from other restaurants,” adds Rago.
Over the past 40 years the Rago and Saccomanno family has experienced many happy milestones, and for Rago, his fondest memories stem from what he calls “the most important aspect of our company,” – giving back.
“Our Garlic Festival and Garlic Stomp have become part of the very fabric of this city,” he informs. “The Garlic Stomp helps raise awareness for various causes and has helped raise millions of dollars to support their endeavours. This year’s Garlic Stomp, which is sponsored by Mosaic Home Services, will be supporting Pilgrims Hospice – A Home for Hospice campaign. The Roozen Family Hospice Centre project will be Edmonton’s first stand-alone residential community hospice, which will incorporate the best in end-of-life care and offer specialized family-centred care and grief support from a comfortable, homelike community setting.”
Their personal highlight was their decision to sponsor Sorrentino’s Compassion House. “The house that love built,” is how they describe the home away from home which has supported women (and their families) since 2003. The House is a quiet, safe, and welcoming haven for women across northern Alberta (and northern Canada) that must travel to Edmonton for diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Now, women can focus on their treatment and recovery with a significant other or family member/friend by their side, thanks to Sorrentino’s Compassion House.
It’s no secret that Edmonton (and area) loves the Sorrentino’s restaurants. After all, Rago and his family were the ones chosen to host Wayne Gretzky’s retirement party. The members of the Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group love Edmonton right back.
“Being able to work with our family, not only our immediate family but the entire team who we consider our extended family, is one of the most rewarding highlights in my life,” says Rago. “Working with individuals who are compassionate, caring people with big hearts makes it easy to have a culture of giving back to our community; and of course, I am very thankful for our guests. The people we have had the privilege to meet over the years is overwhelming. Even more overwhelming has been their loyalty to Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group. We have grown together over the past 40 years and many friendships have been made.”
On behalf of the entire Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group, along with the chefs, managers, team members, and support staff, Rago says, “A heartfelt thank you for supporting us for the last 40 years. We are a simple, family-owned business with that little extra ‘oomph!’ We are happy to spend a few extra hours a day above and beyond the usual business hours to run the company, as this ensures we can continue to provide something special for the community. Grazie!”
Learn more about Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group at www.sorrentinos.com, and more about Buco Pizzeria + Vino Bar at www.bucopizzeria.com. The websites are where you can read the delicious menus, learn about upcoming events, inquire about catering, make a reservation, book a cooking class, buy gift cards, and more. Some of the restaurants in the Sorrentino’s Restaurant Group have also partnered with Skip the Dishes, for when you crave authentic Italian food in your own home. You can also keep up with everything new and exciting for the brand by following @bucopizzeria and @SorrentinosEdmonton on Facebook, and
@sorrentinos_yeg on Instagram.