An Interview with Mike Monti, Owner of Monti's La Casa Vieja

An interview with MICHAEL MONTI, owner of Monti's La Casa Vieja

(See accompanying feature story.)

In the '70s we had the market cornered, and people would wait two hours or more to get in. That was a different time, before the saturation of restaurants began.

Focaccia bread was too hip for the room 35 years ago, so we called it Roman Bread. Still do.

When I was 12, I worked at the restaurant, and most of my experience encouraged me not to get into the restaurant business.

Five days after I graduated from law school my father asked me to take over the business. It's not what I would have predicted, but it's a great business.

My father was an incredibly tough act to follow. To step in and be responsible for his life's work was challenging to say the least.

My first order of business was to fix the historical part of the structure, which was dilapidated. It turned into a major restoration and millions of dollars' worth of work.

I just found out Frank Lloyd Wright used to pull up in a tomato-red Lincoln convertible and have dinner at the restaurant.

The heart of our menu is steak and potatoes.

Part of the problem of being here so long is that we could never serve my family's authentic [Italian] food.

Architecture is a sign of the times. For years, the view outside of Monti's hasn't been good, but now they're renovating Hayden's flour mill across the street [into a shopping structure] and I'd like to take out 50 feet of brick wall to create some windows.

Don't worry, it's not part of the historic structure.

We would be insane to change what we do. Tweak and evolve, and as long as people keep coming and love who we are, we're sticking to the system.

People with grandkids will tell me they had their first date at Monti's. I love that.

I've learned to take nothing for granted. Business has been on the uptake, but we've been flat for a few years. I'm very much in the game every day.

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Laura Hahnefeld
Contact: Laura Hahnefeld