A beloved Houston restaurant that was slated to close has a new owner that will allow it to keep its doors open. B&B Butchers owner Ben Berg has purchased Memorial-area Italian restaurant Carmelo’s Ristorante from owner Carmelo Mauro, the restaurant announced Thursday evening.
When Mauro decided to retire after 37 years in business, he planned to close Carmelo's after service on Christmas Day, but Berg’s purchase means it will reopen beginning with dinner service on Wednesday night. All of Carmelo’s current staff has been offered the opportunity to retain their current positions; most importantly, the restaurant’s long-time chef Fidel Cardozo will remain in his role. Berg's brother Daniel is moving to Houston from New York and will serve as Carmelo's executive chef, the Chronicle reports.
Both Mauro and Berg spoke to Cleverley Stone on her radio show Saturday morning about how the deal came together. Mauro told Stone that Berg’s acquisition ensures that Carmelo’s customers will be able to dine on all of their favorite dishes for the foreseeable future.
“The meatballs are still there,” he promised.
Mauro noted that Stone introduced him to Berg (the host referred to herself as the “matchmaker” for the transaction). After he met Berg for the time, Mauro said he knew he was the right person to purchase the restaurant.
“When I first met him, that night when I went home I said to (my wife) Hilary, 'I like that guy. He sounds honest,'” Mauro said. “When I was talking to him, (I said) ‘I’m involved with some organizations,’ Ben said without hesitation, ‘tell me which one, and I’ll keep it going.’ That tells me he cares about people.”
Berg told Stone that he had been familiar with the restaurant since he lives nearby and that he respects Mauro’s history in the business. When Stone asked if he planned “big changes,” Berg firmly replied “no.” He also affirmed that he’ll keep the Carmelo’s name for “as long as (Mauro) will let me have it.”
“The place has such great history and people. Everyone knows it,” Berg said. Later, he added, “It’s going to be like Carmelo’s never closed . . . We’re just going to get it all ready and go back to normal hours.”
Berg’s biggest challenge will be dividing his time between his businesses. B&B Butchers just opened a second location in Fort Worth, and he has plans to open a fine dining restaurant called Benjamin’s in downtown Houston later this year. Thankfully, he has Mauro as a resource to assist with his new purchase.
“Carmelo has been unbelievable,” Berg said. “Even when he goes off for his trip, I can email him anytime.”