Muio’s Restaurant and Tavern is more than an eatery which serves good Italian and Canadian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
More than 50 years old, the business is a gathering place and a source of good memories for owners, staff and customers alike, as well as an historical landmark.
Owned and operated by Rob DiRenzo since 1997, the iconic restaurant opened at its location at the corner of Queen and East Streets in 1962, established by brothers Carmen, Pat and Guy ‘Chippy’ Muio (who previously owned and operated the Adanac Restaurant).
Rocco DiRenzo, Rob’s father, worked for the brothers as a dishwasher at first.
“He worked long hours and earned their respect, he moved up the ladder, then they allowed him to come in as a partner, so the four of them ran it for several years,” Rob told SooToday.
Each Muio brother eventually retired, leaving Rocco as the sole owner.
Rocco officially retired in 1997, “but he still comes in from time to time,” Rob said.
“When they first started they were open 24 hours a day because there was so much more happening downtown back then, with movie theatres and shift work at the plant. Then they cut it back to 1 a.m. to get the bar rush.”
“Long, long hours they used to work,” Rob recalled.
“One of the guys told my Dad ‘when you want to take over the restaurant, take your wrist watch and throw it in the water, because you’re not going to need it anymore,’” Rob said.
“They said ‘take your key and throw it in the garbage because that door stays open until we can make money to be able to close.’”
“My Dad worked his butt off. That was his life. But he enjoyed it, they had a lot of fun with each other.”
“The Stanley Cup was here after Detroit won it in 1997,” Rob recalled.
“One of the players who had played for the Greyhounds (goaltender Kevin Hodson, a member of the 1993 Memorial Cup-winning Soo Greyhounds squad) who made it to the Detroit Red Wings brought it here as appreciation for us, because we would feed the Greyhounds a lot of their team meals.”
“That was a big moment for us,” Rob said.
“I started as a dishwasher and worked my way up from the bottom. I went away to school for four years in Windsor to see what I wanted to do, but I ended up coming back.”
“There’s something about this city. All of my family’s here. When you’re away it’s fun at first, and you make friends, but it’s not the same, right? You miss your family,” Rob said.
Like his hard-working father before him, Rob finds being a busy restaurant owner rewarding.
“It’s because of the people I’ve met. I know so many people who have come in here and made so many friends. We have a little contest, whenever my daughter Amanda or my other daughter or my wife are walking through the mall, we have a pool to guess how many people I say ‘hi’ to. It’s like ‘hi, hi, hi’ and they’re all from the restaurant.”
As with any other long-standing business, there are regular customers, some of which can be described as ‘colourful.’
“I have my naughty and nice list, definitely, for sure,” Rob chuckled.
“Our regulars are our bread and butter, most of them from the businesses around here.”
Muio’s caters food for customers such as the Soo Greyhounds, and for occasions such as business meetings, smaller scale backyard weddings, school board meetings and long city council meetings (as news reporters will gratefully confirm!)
Long hours notwithstanding, Rob said “I couldn’t imagine not being a boss of my own business. It’s something that once you get used to, it would be hard not to be able to work for yourself.”
Rob said he is pleased to feel like he is a part of local history, as Muio’s building was previously occupied by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce from 1890 to 1924, then by Angus Grant Wholesalers from 1924 to 1961.
“It gives me a lot of pride to be able to keep it running successfully after all these years. It’s a part of the history of the Sault, an important part of the Sault, a lot of people talk about it a lot on social media, about coming to Muio’s to get their ‘fix’ of good food when they’re home for Christmas. That’s important to me,” Rob said.
Rob’s daughter Amanda, a Grade 11 student at Korah Collegiate, began working for her father at Muio’s last summer.
“I love it. It’s fun. We get along really well. It’s fun being with him at work,” Amanda smiled.
“I love the atmosphere here, the people. Because people recognize him, they know me too and say ‘oh, you work for your Dad now,’ so that’s pretty fun.”
“I think the first couple of weeks learning to get to know everything, getting to know everybody here at work, was a fun experience.”
Amanda said she is not completely sure about her future plans, stating college or university will form a part of her picture, but added “I feel like I would (like to stay in Sault Ste. Marie)…I have all my family here. I can’t imagine moving away from everyone and everything.”
Could Amanda be the next owner of Muio’s, succeeding father Rob one day?
“It might be,” she smiled.
“It’s a part of my family. It seems like such a great thing to own this business and for it to be around for so long, it’s just great to have it,” Amanda said.