Ever since the Good Food Emporium on Windsor Street closed earlier this year, regulars have wondered what would come next. The café had been a gathering place for parents, students, young people and a variety of eccentric visitors. Tony and Sam Rinaldo stepped up to fill that “community hub” gap, moving into the space with their new restaurant Rinaldo’s.
Carole LeBlanc, former owner of Good Food, said the choice to pass on the space to the Rinaldos was easy. “They’re sweethearts,” she told The Signal in February.
The Rinaldos are brothers from a long line of pizza makers: their father is Salvatore Rinaldo, the original owner of Salvatore’s New York Pizza. Their space reflects those Italian-American ties: photos on the wall of their father as a child at his first communion and enjoying an American Thanksgiving. The restaurant décor is nostalgic; the neon signs and red checkered tablecloths are throwbacks to Italian-American restaurants of the 1980s. Tony’s brother-in-law, James Rothenberg, designed the sign and logo.
This restaurant has been in the works for a long time. “My brother and I have been planning to open a restaurant since we were 12, 13 years old,” says Tony Rinaldo.
The brothers honed their skills, together and apart, in Las Vegas, Alberta, Toronto, Montreal, New York, and France.
Finally, after a time spent in Lyon, France, receiving classical French training in cooking, Tony Rinaldo decided to return to Halifax. “Rinaldo’s” came next. They partnered with Steven Haines, a longtime family friend, and opened a stall in the Seaport Market. From there, began serving their food at The Other Bean, Propeller, and Good Robot. They knew they wanted to open their own place, but took their time deciding where.
“We didn’t want to settle in just any location,” says Tony. “This happened to be the perfect one for us. We grew up around the corner, we used to come here when it was a cafe, we used to get our haircuts at Phat’s, rent movies at Showtime Video down the street. This is our neighbourhood. So it ended up working out perfectly.”
They’re not worried about the distance from downtown. “I think the trend is going towards opening up restaurants in the North End,” says Tony. “People don’t have to drive all the way downtown and worry about parking. They can just eat right here in their neighbourhood.”
The food at Rinaldo’s is all Italian-American: buffalo wings, New York pizza and the house-specialty meatball heroes. “Our menu is based on that journey our family took from Sicily, on all the ingredients they would have found when they arrived in New York,” says Tony. “This is the good we’ve always been passionate about. I’ve travelled and Sam’s travelled, but this is the food that we love. The recipes we always come back to. We’re a big cooking family. We’re very passionate about food.”
And that’s what they want diners to take away from Rinaldo’s. “I think Halifax just has a small-town family vibe,” says Tony. “I think people just want a place where they feel welcome, where they feel at home, and where they can have a nice meal, you know? We offer unpretentious service. Comfort food.”
Rinaldo’s announced on Facebook at the beginning of June that they will be open as a cafe in the mornings due to popular demand, bringing the location back to its morning java roots. “I think we’re just really excited…to have everyone able to try our food,” Tony says. “Sam and I worked really hard to build this place—I think that’s pretty much it.”