Company Profile: La Cantina Italiana serves up irresistible food and souvenirs

La Cantina Italiana owner Lee Mencoboni (left) stands with his daughter and general manager, Jen Mencoboni.

As business picked up at Leo’s Market, the grocery store and meat shop Leo and Fanny Mencoboni opened in 1946, Mrs. Mencoboni began to run out of time to attend to household chores. So she resorted to cooking her family’s supper in the back room, methodically stirring the sauce that would wrap their spaghetti. But as the aroma of tomatoes, onions and garlic wafted across the front of Leo’s Market, the future of their business began to change. The neighbors said they wanted whatever Mrs. Mencoboni cooked. It soon became clear that their market was destined to turn into a restaurant: La Cantina Italiana.

For decades, La Cantina Italiana in Framingham has been serving up customer favorites like chicken parmigiana, veal parmigiana and pizza – among many other Italian dinner options. The restaurant continues to be family run and is now owned by Leo and Fanny’s son, Lee Mencoboni.

The restaurant’s motto is “Food is a memory”, explains Lee Mencoboni. “When you’ve been there as long as we are, you see families growing up,” he says. “There aren’t too many places like this around anymore.” Mencoboni’s daughter, Jen Mencoboni, who also works at the restaurant, adds, “There is always a customer story. Whether it’s “I had my first date here” or “I met my wife here”. ”

The Mencoboni family also has strong ties to Hopkinton. Lee Mencoboni built one of the first houses on Valentine Road and his children grew up in town. The Cantina Italiana has also become a popular place for Hopkinton sports teams to hold dinner parties with special priced all-you-can-eat options.

How did an independent restaurant like theirs last so long? “We have good food, good portions and good prices,” says Lee Mencoboni. “Having 76 years of activity proves that we have a quality product.” La Cantina Italiana also hosts special events like Musical Bingo on Tuesdays and Trivia Night on Thursdays. Starting May 23, every Monday will be Cruise Night, featuring classic cars and food trucks.

La Cantina’s sports tent, an innovation sparked by the pandemic, will open soon. The air-conditioned tent has seven big-screen TVs, a bar, and an extensive menu. The pandemic has also prompted the launch of Fanny’s Lunch Truck, which offers a range of sandwiches, salads and take-out meal kits. Fanny’s famous dressings and sauces are also sold in New England stores. “You’ll be hooked,” raves Jen Mencoboni about her grandmother’s recipes.

Food is key, of course, but Jen Mencoboni says what makes La Cantina Italiana “so wonderful” are the customers. “I know almost everyone who walks through the door,” she says. “You get to know people and they become like family.”

La Cantina Italiana, which currently has seven family members as employees, looks set for many years of success. Running a restaurant can be tough, acknowledges Jen Mencoboni, “but the good outweighs those things in the long run,” she says. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

La Cantina Italiana is located at 911 Waverly Street, Framingham. For more information, visit golacantina.com or call 508-879-7874.

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