As Tustin’s oldest family owned and operated Italian restaurant, the story of Roma D’ Italia begins more than 50 years ago.
The Roma’s founder Dominic Corea was a master carpenter who had worked on many of the buildings now known as Old Town Tustin. In 1968, Dominic decided to leave his carpentry tools behind and purchase a small Italian restaurant in Old Town. Dominic had a problem, though – he didn’t have any prior restaurant experience! He and his wife Nina partnered with the restaurant’s existing chef and with that, the Corea family officially became restaurateurs!
Dominic dove into restaurant ownership with the help of his partner, whose knowledge of the restaurant and its food was important for a successful transition. Dominic had a shrewd business sense and was something of a perfectionist. A carpenter at heart, he was even known to break out his carpenter’s tape to ensure that servings of lasagna were the right size! He arrived at the restaurant every morning at 5:00 am to make the fresh bread that his guests had come to know and love and his recipe is still used today.
Nina, meanwhile, had stayed at home to raise their children, but her support and influence were always felt at the restaurant. Being an excellent cook herself, Nina directed the cooking at the restaurant and shared many of her treasured family recipes. Many of the favorite desserts and dishes that the restaurant continues to serve today were handmade by Nina.
The 1970s were a time of change for Roma D’ Italia and the Corea Family. During this time, Dominic and Nina’s children – Tina, Louie and Teresa – began working at “the Roma.” The restaurant also grew in popularity and size. Dominic even enclosed the outdoor patio to create a waiting area.
In 1986, Louie had the vision and foresight to expand the restaurant and convinced the family to dramatically expand the size of the restaurant. The three children took on the task with the vigor, dedication and precision they had learned from their Dad. The expansion closed the restaurant for four months, but was a tremendous success. The size of the dining room was tripled, the kitchen was updated, and the Roma even got indoor restrooms!
By 1991, Dominic decided it was time to retire so he and Nina could spend more time enjoying grandparenthood. Nina remembers, “We all worked very hard together for so many years in the business as a family. The restaurant was such a success not only because my husband and I worked the business carefully and thoroughly, but it was also because our children would come in and help when school let out. We had hoped that the next generation would take the restaurant to the next level, and they did!”
With Dominic’s retirement, Tina and Teresa took over the day-to-day running of the restaurant and used the skills passed on by their parents to continue providing their guests with delicious food in a warm and inviting atmosphere. They can both still be seen today regularly welcoming guests into their family restaurant. Tina, the eldest, brought with her a friendly personality and good work ethic. A very strategic thinker, Tina’s detailed numbers sense made her the perfect business manager for the restaurant, a role that she has since turned over to her son, Alfio. Teresa, the youngest, focused on the “front of the house” as well as the crucial task of quality control. Her hard work and ability to move quickly once decisions were made have also been influential in the restaurant’s longevity. Over the years, Tina and Teresa have added their own flavors and signature dishes to the menu.
Always looking forward, Louie decided it was time to branch out and introduce more customers to the family’s delicious recipes. While sisters Tina and Teresa settled down to run the Tustin restaurant, brother Louie opened a second restaurant in Laguna Hills in 1991. Continuing the family’s dedication to great food and friendly service, Louie successfully grew the restaurant in Laguna Hills until he decided it was time to move the restaurant to Ladera Ranch, where he operated from 2006 to 2012.
Most recently, in 2010, Tina’s son Alfio supervised the next major remodel of Roma D’ Italia, which was the most thorough overhaul of the restaurant to date. The interior was completely renewed and the kitchen was replaced. Even though the restaurant got a major facelift during its most recent renovation, it continues to serve the same delicious recipes with the same great service and family atmosphere!
The Roma also opened a third location in Orange in 2010. The Orange location provides customers with the same great service and food, but in a more intimate setting. Some long-time customers have even commented that the new Orange Location looks a lot like the Roma did in its early years – cozy and quaint!
Today, the Roma embodies the passion and honest work ethic of Dominic and Nina Corea. They always said – “The customer is the priority and we always listen to the customer.” This philosophy has brought the restaurant and the Corea Family great success over the past five decades and guides the restaurant today.
It is with this same love and respect that the Corea Family invites you to come in to the restaurant and eat with us – so that we can continue to serve you for 50 more years!