Cafe Largo’s three decades as an Italian staple in Key Largo represents three generations of a family with tomato sauce running through its veins. It’s a bloodline that stems from two Italian families that immigrated to the States separately and merged with the marriage of Pasquale DiGiorgio and JoAnn Maiani.
For over 50 years, the DiGiorgio and Maiani families have owned and operated several restaurants in South Florida. So when “Pat” and JoAnn married, it was only natural for them to carry on the dual family legacy. Their old family recipes originated in the Independent Republic of San Marino and Cassino, Italy. They were passed down generations and carried across borders, ultimately settling in Key Largo in 1992.
After living and feeding people in South Florida for many years, Pat and JoAnn soon discovered and fell in love with Key Largo. They purchased a waterfront property that used to be the B & G Goodyear Automotive shop and convinced their grown children to make the move with them. Together, they transformed the tire shop into a classic Italian restaurant known for its Italian seafood and Angus steaks.
Growing up in a family of restaurateurs, it didn’t take much convincing for Robert and Gina to follow their parents to the Keys. Especially since those footprints led to a beautiful waterfront.
“I was considering going into architecture when my parents decided to open Cafe Largo,” Robert shares, “but going into the restaurant business came much more naturally to me. I also envisioned a life in the Keys where I could dive and fish every morning.”
Robert laughs that the daily dives and fishing didn’t happen (there was too much work to be done), but the business still suited him well. “When you own a restaurant, you get to use so much of your physical and mental abilities that you feel like you’re giving all you have to offer. It’s exhausting, but it’s also very satisfying.”
Gina eventually married and relocated with her family to Fort Lauderdale, and Robert took over the business in 2002. The twenty years since have not only provided him with ongoing success but a family. “I met my wife at the restaurant, and we have two beautiful daughters. This restaurant gave that to me and continues to give us a good life.”
Robert’s wife, Angel, is a realtor with American Caribbean Real Estate and helps run the restaurant. Their daughters, Mia and Bella, plan to continue the family business for another 30 years and beyond. Mia is studying business management, and Bella is a senior at Coral Shores. The business has endured a lot over the 30 years, from hurricanes to recessions to new competition. However, Cafe Largo holds firm because of its loyal customers and nationally-recognized food.
Cafe Largo gained national recognition when featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. The wildly popular TV show showcased the restaurant and two of Robert’s original dishes: veal chop florentine and truffled lobster mac n’ cheese.
The very weekend the episode aired, people were lined up outside the restaurant to taste the dishes Guy described as “out of bounds!” Robert and his staff reeled at the surge of customers but handled it with ease thanks to their decades of experience. In fact, many of his staff measure their employment in decades, including Linda Blesser, who joined the team days after they opened their doors. Robert credits their hard work and loyalty to much of the restaurant’s success.
To celebrate its opening day, Cafe Largo is giving 30% off for 30 years on November 4th. They are also celebrating all month long with complimentary food and wine tastings. They’re inviting new and long-standing customers to join the festivities and be reminded why their legacy has lasted so long.
–Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.