WESTMINSTER — Salvatore Romeo believes not just anybody can make good Italian food.
It even says so on the menu at his new restaurant:
"Everybody can make pizza and Italian food, but to make it right you've got to be Italian or learn from an Italian."
Romeo, 22, wasborn in Naples, so he's got it made there. Last week, he opened Paradiso, a carryout and eat-in restaurant downtown on Locust Lane.
Heshakes his head about the number of restaurants that serve Italian food.
"Even 7-Eleven sells pizza," Romeo said.
His restaurant will be different from some others because all the food will be fresh -- and authentically Italian, he said.
Romeo has almost seven yearsof restaurant experience. At age 16, he and his brother, Antonio, who's also his partner in Paradiso, moved from Italy to Philadelphia.
They worked in various restaurants, and about three years ago movedto Baltimore where they purchased a Mamma Lucia restaurant at Greenmount and 33rd streets.
Antonio, or "Tony," who's 24, will run Mamma Lucia while "Sal" operates Paradiso with help from his girlfriend, June M. Stonesifer, 29, of Westminster. The brothers live in Towson, Baltimore County.
Because he's only 22, Romeo said people in the business world sometimes question whether he knows what he's doing.
With seven years in the restaurant business, Romeo has more experience than many new restaurant owners, said Earle H. Brewer, chairman ofthe county's liquor board.
The board approved a liquor license for Paradiso on Dec. 10, allowing the restaurant to serve beer, wine and liquor.
As part of the standard application process, board members reviewed the Romeos' business records and questioned them about their plans for the new restaurant before granting the license.
"I feel as confident with them as I have with any (new restaurant owners), and maybe more so than some (because of their experience)," Brewer said.
Paradiso, which means "paradise" in Italian, will be open seven days a week.
The restaurant, across Locust Lane from Harvestin' Natural Foods, can seat about 70 people in tables and booths, Romeosaid. Pictures of Italian cities decorate the walls.
Workers began remodeling the 1,800-square-foot building, formerly occupied on oneside by Pizza on Wheels, in September.
Paradiso will employ sevenor eight waitresses and four to seven kitchen workers, he said.
Stonesifer, a hairdresser at the Hair After on Main Street, said she will help with the bookkeeping and will work part time as a hostess.
Romeo, who will cook as well as run the business, said he didn't set out to become a restaurant owner. After attending school until the mandatory age of 13 in Italy, he studied for three years to work as acommercial ship captain, he said.
But that life wasn't for him, and he and his brother moved to the United States "to change life a little bit," he said.
Romeo has no visions of opening a chain of Italian restaurants, but said he would like to own four or five.
"I want to keep a nice reputation" and serve food people will enjoy, he said.
Dinner prices are moderate. The most expensive are linguini alla Posillipo (shrimp, clams, mussels and squid in a marinara sauce) and shrimp parmigiana, for $11.50 each.
Submarine sandwiches are $3.75 to $4.75.