Tuscan Style - Café Sicilia Brings a Personal Touch to South ArlingtonNov 17, 2014 12:46PM ● By Kevin
by Kerry Pipes
Fernando Nogueira and Joe Seyedmorteza have known each other for nearly three decades now. The partners cut their teeth in the restaurant business with Pancho's Mexican Buffet restaurants. In fact, together, the two partners continue to operate five of those restaurants throughout the metroplex. But backtrack a dozen years ago and you discover that they were looking to diversify from the buffet restaurant concept.
“We knew how to prepare food in mass amounts because that’s what’s necessary at a Pancho’s,” says Nogueira. “But it was the individual, cook-to-order restaurant style that began to intrigue me.” He was aware of a small place in Bedford called Café Sicilia and he admired what the restaurant did. So when the owners decided to sell, Nogueira was ready to make an offer.
The partners took over the Bedford location, kept all of the original employees and the menu and continued to be successful. A little less than two years ago they brought the Cafe Sicilia concept to South Arlington for its second location. So far it’s been a hit here as well.
Nogueira has drawn on his 30 years of experience to expand his Italian restaurant concept into the Arlington-Mansfield area. “We have a database of more than 3,000 customers,” he says. “We stay in contact with them and even send them an email every Sunday letting them know what the week’s specials are going to be.”
A family atmosphere permeates everything throughout Café Sicilia. Many employees have been with Nogueria and Seyedmorteza for years now. Customers have “their own tables” they like to sit at and attentive personal service is paramount at Café Sicilia. And it’s not uncommon to find the two partners on site, sleeves rolled up and working a private event or catering function. “That’s just how we operate,” says Nogueira.
A Taste of Tuscany
Nogueira has learned a lot about building and construction over the years and with the help of Seyedmorteza they did a remarkable job with the retail strip location of the Arlington Café Sicilia. There is a real attention to detail here. Cement floors are speckled with inlays of red brick. The stucco walls are adorned with all kinds of Italian art, pottery and knickknacks with flair. A large Tuscan countryside mural covers one wall. Faux red tile roofs jut out along two interior walls and are adorned with grapevines and hanging grapes. Patches of brick and mortar are weaved throughout the interior and over the arches inside the restaurant. There’s even a running water fountain babbling water and an operating fireplace in one corner. They’ve set aside a private room where they can host small parties. It all has a very intimate, cozy and authentic feel.
Despite the detail paid to the décor, it’s the food that is the real highlight at Café Sicilia. “Fresh, made to order, one order at a time,” says Noguiera proudly. “And if it’s not on the menu, we’ll make it for you,” he says.
You’ll find numerous seafood dishes, chicken entrées, veal plates, pizza, pasta, subs, salads and desserts. The portions ensure no one goes home hungry and Nogueira says some customers like to share plates. Noguiera says customer favorites at Café Sicilia run from the Zuppa di Pesce, a generous combination of shrimp, mussels, scallops, clams and crabmeat in a tangy marinara sauce, to the Chicken Rollatini, tender chicken stuffed with mozzarella cheese and herbs, then sautéed with mushrooms and served with the restaurant’s signature pink sauce.
Nogueira’s recommendations sounded hard to go wrong with so we tried both. He also let us sample a Stromboli stuffed with piping hot mozzarella cheese, and a combination of veggies and meats. It was all eloquently presented and offered a taste to match. Coffee and tiramisu sent us happily on our way.
Café Sicilia is BYOB here and attracts a big dinner crowd, says Nogueira. But they do a brisk business at lunch, too. Café Sicilia is located at 7221 Matlock Rd. Suite 101. It’s open Sunday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. and Saturday from 3:00 to 10:00 pm. Visit www.cafesicilia.com or call 817-419-2800 for more information.
Q&A with Café Sicilia’s Fernando Nogueira
Fernando Nogueira normally offices out of a large back room at his Pancho’s Mexican Buffet restaurant just off Green Oaks Blvd., but he was eager to meet up at his newest South Arlington Café Sicilia location to tell us all about the restaurant he took over 12 years ago in Bedford. He’s since brought this second location to Arlington. It’s a quaint and well-done “hole in the wall” as he likes to call it. I had a chance to sit down and visit with Nogueira and his partner Joe Seyedmorteza over some beautifully-crafted and savory Italian dishes this past fall. The 56-year-old has successfully operated two distinctly different restaurants (5 Pancho’s Mexican Buffet and 2 Café Sicilia locations) while raising two sons in Mansfield. He was a pleasure to talk with and was more than happy to share with us.
Q: What makes your food/menu unique?
A: We use fresh ingredients for every dish we prepare and everything is done to order. We have a large variety of different dishes on our menu so that there is something for everyone to enjoy.
Q: Any new menu items on the way?
A: There are specials every week posted in social media and e-mailed to our database customers. Every Monday there's always something different that runs for the whole week. This includes choice of salad/appetizer, two main entrées and dessert. As you know we are BYOB that makes for a great meal along with our freshly prepared specials.
Q: What is the most popular or most requested dish you make?
A: We have many customer favorites and two certainly stand out: Our Chicken Rollatini, stuffed with fresh mozzarella and herbs, sautéed with mushrooms and served with our famous pink sauce. And there’s our Zuppa Di Pesce, sumptuous assorted seafood, shrimp, mussels, scallops, clams and crabmeat, in our zesty marinara sauce. Both dishes along with our homemade buttery rolls make a great meal.
Q: How do you want customers to remember their experience?
A: We like them to remember their meals as if they were at Grandma’s house on a holiday. We want them to have the warm and cozy feeling from our dining room atmosphere and the enjoyment of home-cooked authentic Italian cuisine, with very personalized service.
Q: What is your favorite type of food to eat?
A: Pasta, steak and potatoes are very high on the list.
Q: If you go out to eat, where do you go?
A: Quiet places, the ones that provide you with attention to detail along with a well-prepared meal. Home is one of the greatest places.
Q: What are your other hobbies?
A: Our restaurants, as we build good and strong relationships with our long-time customers provides one of the best hobbies. But the most important is spending time at home with family.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or advice you’ve received or given?
A: If I won't eat it, I won't serve it.
Q: What’s the last book you read?
A: Several business/trade magazines to keep up with our craft in this ever-changing world.
Q: If you had to choose another profession what would it be?
A: Wouldn't change, I’m doing what I love and what I've always wanted. The feeling you get after a customer tells you that they had a great meal is priceless. The success that we share with everyone at our restaurants - from the dishwasher to the chef - everyone has a piece of that success.