Thursday, March 1, 2012

In the Kitchen with Gino Vuolo of Gino's Italian Ristorante

Posted By on Thu, Mar 1, 2012 at 6:09 PM

Gino Vuolo, owner of Ginos Italian Ristorante

Gino Vuolo of Gino's Italian Ristorante was born into a family of restaurateurs in 1962 in Naples, Italy.

“My grandmother’s restaurant in Naples is still open. That’s been open since 1906,” Gino said. “That’s where the whole family broke away from.”

Vuolo’s uncle opened a restaurant in Chicago that he operated for 58 years and is now, like the Naples restaurant, run by one of Vuolo’s cousins.

“We never really had culinary training, you learned that as a kid,” he explained. “You start on prep and dishes and then move up."

Vuolo came to the United States at the age of 2 with his father, who ran La Taverna Ristorante in New York City's Empire State Building. When the business was bought out in 1984, the family returned to Naples and their flagship restaurant.

In 1989, Vuolo met Tia, who was in Naples visiting her brother, a US Navy Commander and a patron of the restaurant. Tia ended up staying with Vuolo in Italy to finish school, and in 1993 she gave birth to the couple's daughter, Jessica. The following year Tia and Vuolo were married and moved their new family to Boise. Because he knew nothing else, Vuolo soon began thinking about starting a restaurant of his own.

Gino’s Italian Ristorante opened on Eighth Street in downtown Boise, where it remained for 14 successful years. But after taking his lumps during the latest recession, Vuolo learned from the mistakes of the restaurants around him and decided a strategic retreat was his best course of action. In 2009, Gino’s moved to its current location at 3015 W. McMillan Road in Meridian. Despite the naysayers who complained about the strip mall location and the long drive, the gamble paid off: business has nearly tripled since the relocation. It’s been nearly three years now, and it’s unlikely that another move is in Vuolo’s future.

“You can’t get me out of here now, I love it so much” Vuolo said. “This is home now.”

Vuolo’s daughter Jessica is now 18 and works at the restaurant. His brother, Tony Vuolo, runs Tony’s Pizzeria Teatro in Boise. Vuolo, who will turn 50 in April, has spurs in both feet and a legion of loyal regulars to show for his time in the restaurant business.

“My main thing is to take care of people and make them happy,” he explained. “It’s not the buck. You need that to survive, but I think if your customers are happy, then everything else will fall into place.”

Three Squares

What food do you loathe?

Grapefruit. I just don’t like the flavor.

If you weren’t cooking for a living, what would you be doing?

I never had Plan B. I pretty much grew up in this and it’s been my life. My family has always had restaurants so we didn’t have to stray from that.

What was your most gruesome injury as a chef?

I took the corner of my thumb off with a slicer. I just put it back on, put some duct tape on it, and it just melded together. I was 16. That was the old days, you just kept going.

Patrick Trakel is the author of local food blog Treasure Valley Treats and Tragedies. You can follow him at or at

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