Children of original owners hope to restore Gaudino’s to greatness

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published May 25, 2016

 Thomas and JoMarie Amato plan to reopen Gaudino’s as a European-style cafe and market with Italian food, cocktails, wine and more.

Thomas and JoMarie Amato plan to reopen Gaudino’s as a European-style cafe and market with Italian food, cocktails, wine and more.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


ST. CLAIR SHORES — Seeking to “blend a traditional Italian market experience with a modern approach to casual dining,” the son-in-law and daughter of the original owners of the building at 27919 Harper Ave. hope to restore it to greatness and bring a unique shopping and dining experience to St. Clair Shores.

Thomas and JoMarie Amato were before City Council in May seeking site plan approval for Gaudino’s. The original store bearing that name was built on the site by JoMarie’s parents, Jack and Mary Genovesi, in 1972. They, in turn, were relocating the original Gaudino’s Italian Market from its location at Mack Avenue and Drexel Street in Detroit. 

The business was sold in 1989 to a third party, and the building then changed over to a new business and has sat vacant for at least three years. Thomas Amato bought the building in October, however, and has plans for an Italian market that will also have 100 seats for dining inside, an outdoor patio, wine, beer and cocktails.

“We do want to be differentiated from the fine establishment across the street,” he said May 2, referring to Nino Salvaggio’s. “Our main intent is to restore the 27919 building, my father-in-law’s building, and make it a flourishing and stable business for the city.”

Amato worked at Gaudino’s in the 1980s and met his wife there. By the time they bought the building, he said they had to haul out four dumpsters full of waste and sandblast the walls, plus paint the exterior and remove an inoperative and unsightly HVAC unit from the roof. With the unanimously approved site plan, he said he hopes to start construction this summer.

The new design will keep the original arches but also add a wooden panel above the roofline to soften the look. They may even add a heated floor to the patio area to extend the season, he said. 

The kitchen is larger than they currently need to accommodate expansion and catering, Amato added. He said he hopes the “European café-style environment” will be a unique addition to the city and attract visitors.

Councilman Chris Vitale said he looks forward to seeing the improvement on Harper.

“We’ve kind of got a little renaissance going on in the south end of Harper, and I think we kind of need something in the middle. I hope we can get something in the north end,” he said. “I think this is great, what you’re bringing to the center of our commercial district.”

Councilman Peter Rubino agreed.

“Mr. and Mrs. Amato, thank you for coming home. It shows that St. Clair Shores still has something when a successful businessman comes home and reinvents a family business,” he said. “I think you’re creating something that will be a destination.

“Recently, we’ve had a few places that are truly becoming destinations in the city. I think this will be another one. I think it’s unique and it will be one-of-a-kind.”