By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
Forty years ago, brothers Paul and Ralph Parillo opened up a restaurant bearing their last name on Amsterdam's South Side.
"We just started it as a bar," Ralph explained Wednesday. "Then a little at a time, my father and brother started cooking and we just went from there.
"It turned into a restaurant."
This Sunday, in the same spot where it began, with the same family members still cooking their homemade pasta, sauce, and Italian dishes, Parillo's Armory Grill will celebrate its 40th year as a staple business in Amsterdam.
"I didn't think it'd last that long," Ralph said laughing as he began cooking up a meal in the kitchen on Wednesday.
Outside the kitchen, just an hour into business that evening sat Gina and Theresa Parillo, Ralph's daughters.
Several years after the Parillo brothers opened the bar, the business was turned over to Ralph and his wife Jackie, Theresa said referring to her parents, with her and Gina growing up alongside them in the business.
At 12 year old, Gina was cooking in the kitchen with her dad, she recalled, mainly sautéing dishes.
"He taught me everything," she said.
And Theresa could always be found in the dining room with her mom, she recalled, a-6-year-old hanging out in an apron trying to emulate the women working.
And those roles have remained.
Theresa, now 30, and Gina, now 24, are integral parts of the Parillo family business.
Theresa waits on customers; Gina cooks in the kitchen.
"It was so long ago," Theresa said laughing, recalling those earlier times. "It's funny because we now each have a baby and my mom said that what the customers do to them is what they did to us."
And it's that family atmosphere that Theresa and Gina think keeps the customers coming back.
"I think we treat everybody like family," Gina said. "Everybody that comes in here, we're just all so close to them and we get to know everybody.
"The customers we have are regulars. They keep coming."
Walking into Parillo's isn't an average dining experience.
The dining room is surrounded by intricate lamps, portraits of past generations of the Parillo family, and hutch upon hutch of china, tea cups, and pieces of memories from the South Side's past.
The restaurant is flooded with history.
But it isn't just the memories of the Parillos.
Theresa said that families who have been coming in for years have brought their own pieces of their family to display and share at the restaurant, bringing the phrase "community atmosphere" to life.
On Sunday, the sisters know that they will be celebrating the survival of their family's -- and their community's -- treasure.
"A lot of places don't last," Gina said. "A lot of business aren't doing well."
Theresa added that seeing a business thrive, especially in a small city, is an accomplishment, and there is nothing about the business that she would ever change.
And that includes the regulars.
Dining on soup and glasses of wine that evening were a group of six men, laughing and joking with one another at their table by the bay window.
It was their monthly get-together at Parillo's Armory Grill for dinner and the group has been coming "for years."
What keeps them coming back?
"The quality of the food and Jackie," said Bill Waldron, one of the six.
Joe Sullivan, also in the group, said he's excited for the celebration.
"Any business that's made it 40 years, everybody should be excited for them," he said. "They should be really proud."
"We applaud that," said Ardie Epranian.
And the applause is not only coming from the regulars, but the employees who have been there to share in the accomplishments for years.
Back in the kitchen cooking alongside Ralph was Brandon Brojakowski.
Brojakowski started at Parillo's washing dishes when he was just 14.
Now 24, Brojakowski is the main chef.
"My favorite part about being here I'd have to say is the family. I absolutely love the Parillos," he said. "They are the kindest family I could ever imagine working with. It's great. It's an honor."
His favorite dishes to cook are the ones with a Parillo family member's name in it, he said, like Pollo a la Gina, chicken Raffael, Bella Jacqueline, and Veal Theresa.
Sunday the restaurant will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for the 40-year celebration, where there will be live music, plenty of memories to go around, and the Parillo family serving their favorite dishes from throughout the years.
"We've been here for 40 years and I think this is a big staple in the community, especially the south side," Brojakowski said. "I think as long as the community supports us, we'll be able to support the community back. ... I hope everybody comes out and supports our 40 years. We want to be here for another 40 years."