Chef Romeo Taus of Romeo’s Euro Cafe in Gilbert, has died | Phoenix New Times

Chef Romeo Taus of Romeo’s Euro Cafe, has died following cancer battle

The chef was known for his larger-than-life personality and quality cooking.
Romeo Taus opened his restaurant Romeo's Euro Cafe more than 30 years ago and treated customers to a large menu and friendly hospitality ever since.
Romeo Taus opened his restaurant Romeo's Euro Cafe more than 30 years ago and treated customers to a large menu and friendly hospitality ever since. Evie Carpenter/Tara Lanphear
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Romeo Taus was more than the namesake of his Gilbert restaurant Romeo's Euro Cafe. He was the owner, a talented chef, a husband and friend.

Early Monday morning, Taus died following a battle with cancer. Last summer, doctors found tumors in his brain and spine. Taus underwent surgery in August, but doctors deemed the spine tumor inoperable.

During the time of his diagnosis and surgeries, friend and longtime employee Tara Lanphear organized a GoFundMe to help raise money to pay for mounting medical bills. On Monday, she updated the fundraiser to share the news of Taus' passing.

"Sadly our beloved Romeo passed away early this morning," the announcement reads. "Please be patient with all of us as we mourn the loss of a great leader, friend, husband, son, father figure and mentor. His legacy will continue to live on thru Romeo's Euro Cafe and each one of us who's lives he touched."

Donations are still being collected to help pay for remaining medical bills and funeral costs. Details of the funeral will be shared in time, Lanphear wrote.

A great chef, husband and friend

Taus led a storied life before settling in Gilbert. He immigrated to the U.S. from  Romania in 1973 where he attended Wayne State University in Detroit. He studied to become an engineer and worked for Chrysler before relocating to Arizona. He worked in numerous Valley restaurants including Golden Cuisine of Southern Europe, of which he took a stake in the business.

In 1991, Taus opened the first iteration of Romeo's Euro Cafe. It was a tiny spot with less than a dozen tables in a Mesa strip mall. He later expanded the restaurant to 6,800 square feet and opened an adjacent theater and gift shop. In 2004, he downsized and moved the restaurant to Gilbert.

Initially, Taus was known for refusing to make substitutions, instead encouraging customers to pick something from the enormous 20-page menu. Some options included pita sandwiches, subs, pastas and entrees. Over the years, the menu slimmed down to around 10 pages and the policy on substitutions relaxed.

Visitors to the restaurant could often expect to see Taus chatting and socializing in the dining room. He sometimes sat down with families as they enjoyed their meals.

On Thursdays, customers got even more time and attention from the chef at his Taste of Romeo's Cafe wine pairing dinners. While Taus and his wife Janice took time away from the restaurant to focus on the chef's health, employees took up the mantle.

“Everything’s going to stay the same,” Lanphear, who has worked for Taus since 1991, told Phoenix New Times in August. “I’m going to jump in and run things and get Janice to focus on taking care of herself and taking care of Romeo. There’s just nothing I wouldn’t do for them. They’re family to me."

Now, Lanphear is working to collect donations along with photos of Taus for his memorial service.

"I cannot express how grateful I am to all of you for all of the love and support you have shown over the last 7 months," she wrote. "There just aren't words."
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