A lifetime of experience in the food service industry has culminated in Chef Angelo Bernardo DiGirolamo’s masterpiece of an Italian eatery, Ristorante Olivio. Located at 201 Massachusetts Ave. in Arlington-just across the street from Boston’s Capitol Theater-Ristorante Olivio offers classic Italian dinners and a luxurious wine menu beginning at 5 p.m. each night of the week.
At the age of nine, DiGirolamo started his lifelong love of bringing people together by making coffee, and serving pastries and gelato to customers at Cafe Roma, located in Marsala, Sicily. “I remember I wanted to work,” DiGirolamo said. “We didn’t have much back then … everyone had to help.” A few years later, in 1958, he moved to America.
Soon after arriving in America, DiGirolamo worked as a busboy at Stella Restaurant in Boston for several years, and his superiors there eventually asked the young man to work by setting up the kitchen making the bread, serving desserts, and assisting in other tasks. After watching the chefs busy at work in the kitchen day after day, DiGirolamo fell in love with the art of cooking. By 16 DiGirolamo had “learned by watching,” and Chef Anthony “Smokey” Cognata took him under his wing. The two became close friends. DiGirolamo, speaking to the strength of their relationship, cited how Cognata stopped by and checked on him periodically when DiGirolamo finally opened his first restaurant, Bernanrdo’s Ristorante, in 1979, after his 16-year career with Stella’s and a two-year gig at Armida’s of Boston.
“Working for different places … you learn different systems,” DiGirolamo said of his varied experiences. “Everyone does things a little differently.” When he opened his first restaurant, he explained, he took lessons he had learned from his other jobs and applied them to his new endeavor.
Bernardo’s Ristorante ran successfully for 19 years. After DiGirolamo closed Bernardo’s, he worked at Chianti’s in Beverly and Davide’s in Boston, before opening his current establishment, Ristorante Olivio, in 2002.
“I believe in freshness,” DiGirolamo said. “I believe in buying local and giving customers a good value. I’ve been here for 12 years and that I think that’s why we’ve been here so long. There are customers that have been coming here since we opened. That says something.”
Ristorante Olivio offers authentic Italian meals. “We sell more Bolognese than anyone I know,” DiGirolamo says proudly. The chef encourages all to try other signature dishes such as the chicken bonna bocca-boneless chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto in Marsala wine sauce and served with arancini-and their delicious rice balls. DiGirolamo also recommends trying their homemade butternut squash raviolis.
As a chef, DiGirolamo said that he loves the “chance to create new dishes, write [his] own menu, and just work with the freshest food possible.” He attributes his success to how deeply he cares about the customer experience: “In order to be in this business, you have to care,” he said.