Looking at the old, run-down building with a rowboat on the roof, many might drive on by. But taking a second look one would see the parking lot full of cars during lunch and dinner hours almost every day. Now cars fill the lot all day, especially since the word is out the owners have decided to shut their doors Aug. 31. Their lease is up and they have decided to move on to another passage of their lives.
For Dino Smalley and Maria Vitale, the 15-year run of the Steak and Catfish Barn has been a good one, and along the way they have changed the direction of their restaurant which started Italian, made a good living and met many customers who came to love them as well as their cooking.
Although from Lawton, Dino claims Edmond as his home too. Dino’s family came from Germany and finally settled in Lawton. After living in Edmond for awhile, he moved back to Lawton and graduated. Following a stint in the Marines he moved to New Jersey where he met Maria. They were attending a wedding where she caught the bouquet. They fell in love and have been married 17 years.
When he met and married Maria, he suggested they come back to Edmond to make a home and open a restaurant.
“I am an alumnus of the Boys Ranch,” Dino said, “and Edmond has always been very good to me.”
The restaurant business runs through Dino's and Maria's veins. Din's father had owned a sports bar and most of Maria's family are cooks or chefs. "That is what Italians do," she said. "We never eat out. We always prepare food, and a lot of it, for the family and we eat at home."
When the couple first moved to Edmond in 1998 they opened the Italian Kitchen in the same location and for six years they were open in the evenings serving cuisine from Maria's family recipes.
Looking at the construction going on in the rea, Dino and Maria decided they wanted to open for lunch, but Italian food was too heavy. "In 2004, we took the Italian (food) off the menu and kept the steak and fish, " Maria said.
The lunch crowd was an almost immediate turn around, Dino said.
When they visit Italy, Maria said she and Dino cook for her family, catfish of course, and "before the fish hits the table it is gone," Maria said.
The couple is looking for someone who would be interested in buying their restaurant's name, their recipes and their website.
"We will teach someone to cook how we cook our recipes," Maria said. "The secret is in the flavor of the breading and the preparation of the fish."
If you haven't eaten there yet, drive by and stop for awhile. A line forms at the door and you might want to get there early.
"We opened our doors Saturday at 11 a.m. and by 11:06 a.m. we were completely seated and both rooms were full of customers," Dino said.