PINELLAS PARK – For the past 10 years, Sesto Ramadori has served up authentic northern Italian dishes from his quaint restaurant, Da Sesto Italiano Ristorante e Vino, on 66th Street North.
Some nights were so busy that he turned away as many as 60 customers a day simply because he didn’t have the space to accommodate him. He considered moving into a larger space for years.
“I always said I would like to, but I was at the point where I was like, but do I want to,” he said. “Really it came down to, can I afford a bigger place?”
Ultimately, he decided that he could. Ramadori relocated the restaurant across the street to 7201 66th St. N., in the location of the former Clay Oven Indian restaurant on the corner of 66th and Park Boulevard. Da Sesto opened the doors to its new digs April 14.
The city was a big help during the process, he said. He received a façade grant to assist with the cost of upgrading the building’s exterior.
“That helped a lot with signage and the grass and making this place look good,” he said.
In the new location, Da Sesto doubled its square footage and jumped 50 to 125 seats. In the fall, Ramadori plans to open its terrace seating area that will provide an additional 25 seats.
“And some nights we still have people lining up to get in,” he said.
He credits his wife, Annick, as being his greatest supporter in the move.
“I don’t know if I would have done it if it weren’t for her,” he said.
The couple met when she was a customer at his restaurant.
“People ask how we met and I tell them table five,” Ramadori said. “I guess she fell in love with the food first. But she’s very supportive and put fine touches on this place. So many little things you see around her are from her.”
He added that while there aren’t any changes to the restaurant’s menu, it has added a full liquor bar.
Staff has also nearly tripled in the new restaurant from a dozen to about 34 employees now.
Instead of just one chef in the kitchen, now there are three. This has caused some “growing pains,” Ramadori said. “We’re still learning how to cook with that many chefs. Before, everything just went through me. Now everything isn’t going through me. I’m just part of the kitchen.”
Still, he said, the staff is working hard to “iron out the problems” and the quality of Da Sesto’s food is the same as it ever was.
“It’s important as we get a grasp on the quantity that we keep the quality,” he said.
Born in Montreal, he spent much of his childhood in Italy. His family is from the northern Marche region. He returned to Canada, where he studied mechanical engineering and worked, for a while, in the plastics industry.
But Ramadori always loved food and spending time in the kitchen with his mother, who taught him how to make pasta by hand.
“Being Italian, you’re always cooking at home,” he said.
So he opened three Italian restaurants in Canada with a similar menu to Da Sesto’s that also focused on the northern Italian style of cooking.
“Less spicy and more flavorful,” he said. “We do more cream and we do a lot of meats and seafood, too.”
He also worked for a company that sold and serviced manufacturing equipment for the pasta industry. Eventually, his mother moved to St. Petersburg. While living here, she met the owner of Florida Pasta Company. She connected the owner with her son, who for a decade traveled to Pinellas County to service the company’s pasta-making equipment.
At the time, he was married to his first wife and they had young children. So he wanted a break from the demanding restaurant industry. He sold his businesses in Canada and moved to St. Petersburg to purchase the Florida Pasta Company in 1997. He sold it in 2013.
Ramadori opened Da Sesto in 2007. By then his children were older and he had missed the restaurant business. Pinellas Park quickly embraced the restaurant, he added.
“Pinellas Park has always been good to us,” he said. “We’ve come so far here.”