Dayton Italian restaurant to close in March: ‘Our customers are what made Franco’s’

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Franco’s Ristorante Italiano in Dayton’s Oregon District is closing its doors after business on March 16.

General manager Nick Germano said “It’s time for us to move on.”

“I just want to thank everyone that has walked through our doors. We are definitely going to miss you like our family,” he said.

Credit: Natalie Jones

Credit: Natalie Jones

Germano, his mother Barbara, and his sister Gina, started working with a realtor to sell the property five to six months ago.

He said it’s time for his mom, who is now 75, to retire since she has been working at the restaurant since his late-father, Franco, opened it 47 years ago. In addition, Germano could not commit to being at the restaurant all the time because he wants to spend time with his wife and two boys.

“You have to be dedicated 100 percent to run an independent restaurant,” Germano said.

He also admitted the restaurant industry has changed quite a bit and it’s hard to find reliable workers.

What’s next for the property?

The family is selling the Fifth Street property to Mo Jusufi, the owner of Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen located at 3002 Woodman Dr. in Kettering.

Germano described Jimmy’s Italian Kitchen as a “good fit” for the property.

Jusufi does not have plans to close his Kettering restaurant. He is opening a second location after providing great food and service in Kettering for the past 10 years.

They are hoping to do a soft opening in May after completing cosmetic updates. Jusufi confirmed he will keep employees from Franco’s Ristorante Italiano that choose to stay.

The history of Franco’s Ristorante Italiano

Franco opened Franco’s Ristorante Italiano in October of 1976 after moving to the U.S. at 18 years old from Duronia, Italy.

Due to his lack of English, he started as a dishwasher and then was drafted into the military where he worked in the mess hall. After the military, he was the chef and general manager of Sacksteder’s Cafeteria. He also worked worked at the Bullpen Diner in Dot’s Market in Kettering, before opening his own place at the age of 31.

Franco first learned about food from his mother, Addolorata. He used her recipes, tweaked them slightly, but kept things simple, Germano said. The restaurant is known for Franco’s World Famoso Spaghetti, which is prepared with oil, lots of roasted garlic, homemade sausage, mushrooms and Romano cheese.

Franco died at the age of 73 in March 2018 after battling pancreatic cancer.

“My dad and I worked together as partners. When he passed, a lot of me left,” Germano said. “I lost my best friend from work too. He coached me in soccer my whole life. I was around him all the time.”

One of Germano’s favorite memories of working with his dad was from over 10 years ago when his mom called him to come to the restaurant and help because their kitchen staff didn’t show up. Germano knew the recipes, but typically didn’t work in the evening.

“I worked with my dad in the kitchen and we were like reading each other’s minds and at the end of the night he goes, “How did you know that?” and I go “because dad I’ve watched you since I was a kid. I learned by watching you,”” Germano said.

He recalled many other memories of getting in trouble at the restaurant as a kid and watching his parents put in a lot of hard work, but at the end of the day “our customers are what made Franco’s. Without them we wouldn’t be anything,” Germano said.

The restaurant is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, and 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 937-222-0204.

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