Paolo Musto – Café Epoca
In business for 23 years and counting, Café Epoca is a Little Italy institution and an important and respected member of the local community. Owner Paolo Musto has built his reputation with an unwavering commitment to quality, traditional values, and keeping things simple.
So tell me about your approach to pizza.
We do a very basic Italian thin crust pizza. We use a very good tomato sauce, a nice mozzarella, and all the toppings and ingredients are simple and fresh. We use an authentic Napolitan-style sauce, no garlic, no oregano, just olive oil and salt. Depending on the pizza style or recipe, we might add some fresh basil or arugala.
Sounds pretty straightforward.
It’s a traditional style of pizza. It’s very light. Also, the tomato is not cooked. A real pizza, as it’s made in Italy, it’s made with raw tomatoes. This is very important. My family is from La Marche near Abruzzo. My father is from Naples, the home of pizza, and that’s how they make it.
How did you get into the restaurant business?
Originally, we started as a bar, but as I got older and people started to have families, we thought it would be nice to go with more of a family-style Italian bistro concept. It’s still a very social place with very friendly staff and customers, but we’re known as the place for a quick bite at a good price, with consistent high quality. My philosophy is simple: Fresh, quick, and good. Our ingredients are very basic, garden ingredients, nothing pre-cooked.
What do you think is the secret to your success?
We’re a family-owned and family-run restaurant that caters to families. There are a lot of challenges in this business. You have to stay focused on the details, make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, not just six months at a time, but on a week-to-week basis. The food I serve, I know it inside-out. I’m in the kitchen all the time, tasting things. If there’s even the hint of a problem, I’m fixing it right away. If I wouldn’t serve it to my family, I won’t serve it to my customers.
Café Epoca is at 6778 Boulevard St. Laurent in the heart of Little Italy.
Writer: Robbie Dillon