Chef, since 1981
When Fidel Cardozo joined Carmelo’s Ristorante Italiano in 1985 as an apprentice cook, it was his very first job. He worked extremely hard to earn the respect of his co-workers, and in 1990 he was promoted to head chef. He is fully in charge of the kitchen staff and all the day-do-day operations – from organizing daily food purchases, maintaining the cleanliness of the kitchen, managing the inventories, and creating delicious daily specials. His favorite part of the job is training new people in the kitchen, and he recently enhanced his culinary skills by attending the Art Institute of Houston. Fidel was born in Guanajuato, Mexico, into a family of five brothers and two sisters. His favorite hobby is sports – especially soccer. Thanks in part to his efforts; Carmelo’s Ristorante won the “Best of Beef” Challenge contest conducted by the Texas Beef Council benefiting the Capitol Area Food Bank of Texas. Carmelo’s won the contest with Filetto Fidel, a beef filet accompanied by roasted vegetables and béarnaise sauce.
Manager, since 1996
Miguel Cardozo became manager at Carmelo’s one year ago, after starting as a busboy in 1996 and working his way up. What he enjoys most about his work is his comfortable relationships with the restaurant’s clients. He enjoys taking care of them, at the door or over the phone; reserving groups and helping the waiters do their job well. His favorite item on the menu is Pollo Carmelo, with Gamberi Ripieni running a close second. Miguel was born in Mexico, and both his cousin, Fidel, and brother, Manuel, also work at Carmelo’s. He is married with three children. His favorite pastime is playing soccer on Sundays.
Accordionist, since 1981
Music, according to Shakespeare, is the food of love. “Without live music, a restaurant is not Italian,” according to Carmelo. Accordionist Pino Virga has been performing at the Houston restaurant almost since the day it opened. Recreating the role of a strolling Italian street musician, he stretches out his accordion to full length, pumps out a jolly solo, and the sound is irresistible. Unwittingly, perhaps, Virga has contributed to the groundswell of an accordion revival in this country. According to Time magazine, “an estimated 75,000 accordionists can be observed running amuck across the U.S. – competing in squeeze-offs, paying homage to their patron St. Lawrence of Welk and going deep into dance halls, beer parlors and bar mitzvahs inflicting their relentless merriment.” On the island of Sicily, Mauro and Virga grew up together but never actually met until Carmelo’s opened in Houston almost twenty years ago. Pino has been entertaining almost continuously six nights a week – in addition to doing much of the restaurant’s upholstery himself!