Q: What factors have made your family’s restaurants so successful over the years?
Malio Iavarone: We pay attention, and we’re active in the restaurants.
Derek Iavarone: Yeah, hard work and dedication. We have great support from the community. We’re local people, and they support local people. Especially my father and my uncle, their attention to customers and making people feel welcome and making people feel at home in our restaurants [has led to our success].
Q: If you could only eat at one Tampa restaurant — that your family doesn’t own — for the rest of your life, which would you choose and why?
MI: I have to go with Bern’s. It’s good food. I order the New York strip, and I like the shrimp cocktail. They have a great Caesar salad, too. The Harry Waugh Dessert Room is always fabulous, and they take good care of you.
DI: Probably something like Rooster and the Till because their menu changes pretty regularly, so there would be a lot of variety. It’s also locally owned.
Q: Where is your favorite place to go for Italian food in Tampa?
MI: That’s exactly right. We love them.
DI: We’re going to Donatello later, as a matter of fact, and we live right by Caffé Paradiso, so we’re popping in there all the time. They have a great piccata at Donatello, and they have great lasagna at Caffé Paradiso. But everything is good there.
Q: Finally, who serves the best Cuban sandwich in Tampa?
MI: I’ve got to go with Carmine’s [owned by Malio’s nephew].
DI: We’re a little bit biased, but it’s an excellent Cuban. I get mine pressed — no lettuce or tomato, just mustard, mayonnaise and pickles. It’s delicious.