West Houston Italian restaurant knows the meaning of giving back

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HOUSTON, TX – Ever wish you could travel the world just to try all the different foods out there? That would be some, life huh? But what would you do when you got back?

If you’re Carmelo Mauro, you move out to west Houston and open a restaurant. Welcome to Carmelo’s.

“I was born and raised in Sicily with a mother who had a big pot just outside growing a lot of fresh herbs,” Mauro says as he shows us around the small Italian village he’s created inside his restaurant on memorial Drive. “But my dream was to travel and so to go and start thinking that you want to travel and join the restaurant/hotel industry, that was unheard of. As a matter of fact, I was the first one who left the small fishing village where I come from, Giardini-Naxos in Sicily.”

That was back in 1963. Since then, Carmelo has lived all over the world. But in 1981, when it came time to settle down and open the restaurant he had always dreamed of, no place seemed better than an old warehouse out past Dairy Ashford on Memorial right here in Houston.

“I don’t think anyone believed that anyone could come this far out and open a business,” Carmelo laughs. “Back in ’81 when you crossed Gessner, that was it.”

Thirty-three years later, Carmelo’s is a Houston landmark. “People questioned my sanity. Of course, now they call me a visionary, which is much nicer than being called insane.”

Since then, the little restaurant has grown up and played host to Houstonians and celebrities alike. “Morgan Fairchild is a sweetheart,” Carmelo says pointing to a wall of celebrity photos in the main hallway. “She comes almost every year to help us raise funds.”

But for the boy from the little fishing village in Sicily, giving back is as important everything else the restaurant does on a daily basis. Carmelo’s participates in more fundraisers and charities than most men could count. And Chew on This: Carmelo has even gone as far as opening pilot programs in area high schools where students can learn about the restaurant business from the inside out. “The students really learn every facet of what I personally do in here–to go and open a bank account, to dealing with a CPA, how to incorporate, how to take an inventory.”

Some life, huh? But that’s not what we asked. What would “you” do when you were finished traveling the world and eating all the best foods man has to offer? We know what we would do. We’d go to Carmelo’s.