Anthony Rugiero

Meet the Founder

Anthony Rugiero was born into a family who understands the value of hard work and commitment. Family and faith are significant components in all aspects of his life – and the influence of his upbringing in a first-generation Italian American family is what makes the difference. These fundamental beliefs were given to him by his parents, Antonio, Sr. and Enrica (“Rita”) Rugiero, who met and married in the United States after both had immigrated from Italy.

People say his love for family is unmistakable. Anthony and his beautiful wife Sabrina met at Antonio’s on her first day at work and Anthony knew that she was the one. They married in 2000 and they have four children – two boys and two girls. Despite a busy schedule, he enjoys spending time coaching his son’s hockey team, attending school events and spending quality time with his wife and extended family. Anthony and his family embrace traditional values – attending church on Sunday, ensuring that their children understand the importance of honor, honesty, and tradition – especially tradition, starting with work. All the Rugiero children work in the restaurants when they are 15 years or older.

When you meet Anthony, it is clear he is proud of his Italian heritage and enjoys sharing his family traditions with others. Together, with his friends and children they make homemade prosciutto and wine with hand-me-down family recipes. The family enjoys vacationing together and traveling to Italy to visit their family’s home frequently to maintain their heritage, visit with relatives and value the time they spend together. He enjoys taking the kids around to all the places where he spent summers as a little boy, showing them the rich history and tradition of his family, as his parents did for him. Remembering who and where we came from will help us become who we are.

The family lives their motto Tiriamo AvantiTM, which means to always move forward, especially in difficult times, and a positive spirit will prevail. Anthony is so proud of this motto, he has engraved it on all of the restaurants and his home – he even trademarked it! Sharing faith, family and traditions carries family values generation after generation.

“My recipe for success is a balance of family and work, making sure that everyone and everything gets the right amount of attention to be happy and successful.”

Philanthropy

In 2011, Anthony established the Rugiero Promise Foundation, a volunteer-only organization, driven on one commitment, “Improving the quality of life in the communities we serve “.  Bringing his passion and commitment to numerous charities is extremely fulfilling for Anthony’s work and life. He consistently endeavors to be involved and strongly get behind worthwhile community organizations – whether it is supporting local schools, sponsoring community events, or helping vulnerable individuals; his involvement makes a positive impact.

Throughout the year, the Rugiero Promise Foundation provides longstanding support for several annual charity events to raise funds and awareness for local charities. In 2008, Antonio Sr. passed away from complications due to Diabetes. Inspired by their desire to honor their father’s memory – Anthony and his brothers contemplated their dad’s hobbies and realized all he did was work, but he did enjoy traveling to Las Vegas for the annual Food Show with his sons. These memories of their trips to Las Vegas with their dad are what motivated the creation of Rugiero Casino Royale – the signature event for the Rugiero Promise Foundation, supporting Diabetes Research at the University of Michigan Medicine Center. Anthony’s mission has become to have the Rugiero Promise Foundation and the Casino Royale event become a household name for finding a cure for Diabetes. Anthony feels blessed to be able to give back to the community. Anthony made a vow that, in gratitude for all of God’s blessings, his family would never stop working to help those less fortunate.

 Dedicated to the work of philanthropy in both his public and private life, Anthony serves on numerous Charity Boards including the Detroit Opera House, Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance, Volterra-Detroit Foundation, and The Italian American Club of Livonia Charitable Foundation, to name a few.

In 1999, Anthony Rugiero joined his mentor Frank Stella, in his efforts to establish the Michigan chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums (PAVM), entering the ranks as one of the many chapters around the world – raising money to restore the precious art at the Vatican museums. Anthony and his wife, Sabrina, regard their work with the PAVM as one of the most valuable and rewarding parts of their philanthropic endeavors, knowing that the work that is being done enables their children and future generations to see and appreciate the arts.

Anthony added his expertise and funding to join the mayor and continue the Dearborn Heights Spirit Festival in 2003, a city-wide event to celebrate culture and food. To accomplish this feat, Anthony promised that if the city would continue the festival, Antonio’s would cover the losses, so the taxpayers did not have to, and the kids could continue to enjoy the festival – and so began the Dearborn Heights Spirit Festival sponsored by Antonio’s.

With his Italian heritage being a special part of his life, his mentor Frank Stella introduced Anthony to Vincenzo Marra, who later became a dear friend and founder of the Italian Language Inter-Cultural Alliance (ILICA) This introduction started a long-friendship and Anthony joined the Board of Directors in 2007.

ILICA is an organization that provides training courses in Italy for American teachers who teach the Italian language in grades Kindergarten through the University level. These funds have also allowed the foundation to organize events, art exhibitions as well as trade fairs specifically dedicated to the promotion of language and culture within the USA.

In 2011, Anthony spearheaded a campaign to assist the University of Detroit Mercy to build a school for students studying alabaster and architecture abroad in Volterra, Italy. This was no small project and Anthony knew when Stephen Vogel and Wladek Fuchs, friends of the late Frank Stella, asked for help to bring their vision to reality. To make this happen, they needed funding. At the same time, Anthony was also committed to two other foundations, ILICA and Boy’s Town of Italy. Faced with this challenge, Anthony woke in the middle of the night with the idea of bringing Il Volo to Detroit for a benefit concert to raise money for all three initiatives. Il Volo was Italy’s new singing sensation that Anthony had watched their winning performance at the San Remo Festival in Italy days before. Anthony knew that he had to bring their talents to Detroit and so he introduced Il Volo to the United States with their first concert in Detroit at the Fox Theatre followed by a benefit dinner at the Detroit Opera House. Weeks later, a PBS special aired promoting Il Volo. The Il Volo Concert and benefit dinner was such a huge success that the proceeds were shared with all three charitable initiatives. To commemorate Anthony’s participation in achieving their goal, The newly established University of Detroit-Volterra in Volterra, Italy named the dining hall in Anthony’s father’s honor at his request.

Anthony continued his work with the Italian American community when he joined the Italian American Club of Livonia (IACL) Board of Directors in 2016 through 2020. During that time, the IACL went through its biggest expansion since its founding in 1990. Since 2019, Anthony serves on the Board for the Italian American Club of Livonia Charitable Foundation (IACLCF) which works exclusively for charitable, educational and welfare purposed for the Italian American Community.

My mentor Frank Stella said, “If you take the time to do it, make it count.”

My father would say, “In family, with unity comes strength.”

Entrepreneur

President and CEO – Antonio’s Cucina Italiana Corporation
President and CEO – Roman Village Incorporated
President and CEO – Rugiero Management Group
Founding Chairman – Rugiero Promise Foundation

In 1964, Antonio, Sr. opened Roman Village Pizzeria in Dearborn, Michigan, where Anthony and his three brothers learned about the importance of running a restaurant business. In 1992, the brothers opened the first Antonio’s Cucina Italiana in Dearborn Heights – named after their father –which enjoyed so much popularity that they opened two more restaurants in Farmington Hills and Canton. Their newest location in Livonia called Antonio’s Piccolo Ristorante presented a new look for the brand. When his father passed in 2008 from complications due to diabetes, Anthony was proud to serve as President and CEO of the restaurant groups, along with the Rugiero Management Group that oversees the operation of five growing restaurants and excels in other business ventures.

It has been perseverance and a positive attitude that has seen Antonio’s and Roman Village grow. In the restaurant business, Anthony wisely understood that a good protocol that provides consistency in the quality of food, friendly service in a clean atmosphere at reasonable prices, the business can weather any circumstance. Since 1964, the businesses have sustained a lot of ups and downs, none worse than the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the world. During the COVID pandemic, Anthony pivoted the five restaurants into war mode, where they offered takeout and curbside service. With its great management team and staff, the restaurants stood with the frontline to serve and feed the community, provided needed support to local hospitals and first responders, took part in keeping the sense of community alive and delivered food where needed while maintaining respect of health and safety rules – all with God’s blessing.

Anthony believes that each restaurant must impact its community in a positive way, making it better for the people who live there. He believes that this would not happen without his family – his mother and brothers all share the responsibilities and run all the locations as one big family restaurant – keeping the quality and service consistent. The reward for this dedication to service and community has been plentiful with regular, loyal customers who appreciate his sense of community, leadership, and family support.

All five restaurants support the community with many events hosted throughout the year. These event include Opera Day in support of the Michigan Opera Theatre; Feast of St. Antonio day by providing complementary lunch buffet and inviting guests to donate what they can, proceeds benefit Capuchin Soup Kitchen and Gleaners Community Food Bank; Festa del Gelato providing free gelato for the community; Breast Cancer Awareness month, where $2 for every pizza is donated to Breast Friends Forever at St. Joseph Mercy Health System; Columbus Day where we honor Italian heritage; Veteran’s Day with proceeds benefitting the Veterans Outreach Project of Southeast Michigan;  Benny Napoleon’s Christmas Toy Drive and Lunch with Santa that benefit the kids in the community.

Anthony has been honored to receive recognitions for his work; Frank D. Stella ILICA Community Award (2010), Veterans Outreach Project “Heroes Coin” (2013), and Festa della Republica Italianna – Man of the Year (2015), Arab Chamber of Commerce – First Non-Arabic Businessman of the Year (2016), and the State of Michigan’s Italian Heritage Honor (2021).

The walls of Antonio’s and Roman Village restaurants are lined with photographs of Anthony’s wife and children, parents, brothers and their wives and children, and many lifelong friends. His office walls are displayed with pictures and stories of dignitaries and celebrities that Anthony has come to know. For information on Antonio’s and Roman Village Cucina Italiana restaurants visit antoniosrestaurants.com.

“Don’t get discouraged when life is not fair. “Tiriamo AvantiTM” Always move forward and never settle for less”

Political

Anthony is a civic-minded member of the community and is actively involved in supporting various political campaigns for Mayors, Judges, Congressmen/women, and Senators. Anthony believes you must get involved to make a difference. He is proud to live in the greatest country in the world and is inspired by traditional American ideals where its people believe in the value of hard work and earning an independent living to support their families and live the American Dream.

Faith

Anthony believes that his Catholic faith has guided him and his family through many challenges – and he always includes his family and staff in his prayers. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the future was uncertain, Anthony prayed to God. In the morning when he woke, he found a white dove on his window ledge, and it remained for several days. In the Catholic faith, the white dove is a sign of hope. Anthony and his family support many of the churches in the communities that their restaurants serve. His highest honor was receiving an audience and blessing from the three most recent Popes – Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis.

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