The Sicilian in Miami Lakes Will Be Sold Soon

The Sicilian 3.JPG
Photo by Danielle Alvarez
Picking a place for dinner in Miami Lakes usually consists of having to choose between the lesser of two restaurant chain evils. Outback or Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza tonight?  And the authentic food search is about to get even tougher. The owners of the area's best family-run eatery, the Sicilian, are selling their 28-year-old establishment.

"Times have changed," proprietor Giuseppe "Joe" Castiglione says about what brought him to the decision. "You don't have the people that go out to relax and enjoy a culture anymore."

Photo by Danielle Alvarez
Joe Castiglione
After leaving his native Sicily in 1956, Castiglione moved to Brooklyn and then settled in Miami Lakes. He says he wanted the Sicilian to be known as the neighborhood Italian spot -- and he succeeded. Nearly every family in town knows Joe as the Miami Lakes Godfather. He wears his salt-and-pepper hair slicked back and speaks in a romantic yet stern tone. He's the kind of man you want to hug but would never mess with.

Years ago, families packed the quaint, eight-table restaurant nightly. They dined and socialized with the Castigliones for hours. Garlic aromas lingered. And the music selections kept eaters humming while they munched on fresh pastas and sipped Chianti.

The owner, along with his wife Monica and their four children, created a specific ambiance for customers. They welcomed them into their Sicilian living room and treated them like Italian cousins. Patrons were local and loyal. "We have never advertised," Castiglione says. "Our advertising is: You try it; if you don't like it, walk out."

Today, pictures of the family and their favorite customers still adorn the walls. They hang alongside Sicilian flags, maps, and signs. And the mouth-watering aromas remain. But the hole-in-the-wall's atmosphere now feels different. The liveliness has faded.

Castiglione, with his stained chef's coat and glazed-over blue eyes seems saddened and tired. His fingernails are encrusted with white flour from 43 years of knotting dough. Sitting in his empty eatery, he speaks of his changed city, gesturing with his hard-worked hands for emphasis. "I remember Miami. It was once a happy place... Miami Lakes is cold now."

Castiglione says today's generation doesn't appreciate his type of business. The Sicilian is a place for a long, relaxing dinner and in-depth conversation, not curbside service and tweets. The 64-year-old says he wants to retire from the pressures of keeping up a small restaurant and give his aching body a rest. But he says he is not looking forward to his last day on the job. "My mind has always been here," he says. "We've never been free... I am going to be shocked."

The Sicilian owner is asking for $64,000 for his life's work and says the turnover will likely happen in the next few months. He says he will pass on everything to the new owner, even his mother's recipes if desired. "When I die, what good is that?" he says. "Why would I take any recipes with me when I can pass them on?"

Castiglione's only regret: abandoning his loyal customers that have become family members. "I made them forget everything when they came in here. I feel bad for them," he says.

The neighborhood Godfather says he learned how to cook from his mother back in "the old country." His lasagna Giuseppe and baked ziti Ricardo are incomparable. And the bite-size garlic rolls trump all others.

Short Order just hopes whoever takes it over doesn't turn it into a Chipotle or something worse. Whatever happens, the Sicilian will not be the same without the Castigliones. So visit soon and stock up on the rolls.

Sicilian 5.JPG
Photo by Danielle Alvarez
The Sicilian
16786 NW 67th Ave., Miami Lakes

Location Info

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza

10205 S. Dixie Highway, Pinecrest, FL

Category: Restaurant

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