Gino's to close after 50 years on State St. | Business
By chef and owner Gino Gargano's estimation, he's made more than 3.6 million pizzas at his State Street eatery since he opened in 1963. Gargano announced Thursday morning he would serve his last stuffed slices next month.
Gargano said he's closing the Italian restaurant's doors to retire. His wife of 23 years, Stella, said Gargano works seven days a week getting up at 5 a.m. to make his sauces and dough from scratch. At 73 years old, he's ready for a break.
"It'll be hard, it won't be easy," Stella Gargano said. "He's stubborn, he wants to do everything from scratch. But he's 73, he needs to slow down a little bit."
Gino Gargano was born and raised in Sicily, and moved to Madison in his early 20s. He opened Gino’s at 540 State St. on July 5, 1963, and will close Oct. 31.
The restaurateur said he’s seen a lot of changes on State Street over the last 50 years.
He remembers when people could still drive on State Street, and customers could drop people off out front and go park. He said he also remembers all the different shops that were on the downtown street that have faded out since West Towne and East Towne malls came to the city. Gino and Stella Gargano both said there are a lot of chain restaurants coming to the area and less small family-owned eateries like Gino’s.
The couple said they’ll miss being at the restaurant every day and their staff. Gino Gargano also said he’ll miss seeing students return years after they’ve graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison and hearing their stories, like those who had moved on to become doctors, producers and workers at the White House.
"After 20 years, they come back married with kids," Stella Gargano said. "They all say that they have good memories at Gino’s [and] they talk so wonderful about him. They all love the place."
Gargano said he’d likely make his favorite Sicilian dishes from scratch at home or stop by his niece’s Italian restaurant, Bellini on East Washington Avenue, for Italian after he ends his decades of service at Gino’s.
Stella Gargano said the family was grateful to have served Madison for such a stint, including all the UW-Madison students who ate there.
"Thank you to all the wonderful customers that [Gino’s] had for over 50 years," she said.
But Stella Gargano wasn’t convinced that leaving Gino’s on State Street would be final culinary “ciao” from Gino.
"I don’t think he'll be able to sit at home, read the paper and watch TV, you know. He’s a very active guy," Stella Gargano said. "Who knows, maybe he’ll open another little place?"
Gargano said he’s made a deal to sell the building and he’s scheduled to close Nov. 1. He's not sure what the new owner’s plans for the space include, but he said it’s not likely to be a restaurant.