Where the customer is “always family”
Authentic Italian cuisine is just the beginning at Angelo’s Sempre Famiglia
by Sharon A. Shaw

When times are tough, we turn to family for support and encouragement. The past 18 months have been difficult for many families, but customers have continued to turn to Angelo’s Sempre Famiglia in Warminster, where family includes more than just relatives.

Owner Tani Kolonja jokes that he spends more time with his staff and customers than his family—but it’s not really a joke. As he speaks, his appreciation for his extended “family” is evident.

“Our patrons are concerned with the world. Here we try to make them happy…they come here to get away from their daily problems,” he says.

Angelo’s tries to relieve that daily stress with a friendly atmosphere, where in addition to the excellent menu, customers relax with the warm and inviting décor and entertainment. The establishment hosts musical entertainers Tuesday through Saturday evenings, and offers a variety of other ways to bring families together around the table.

Angelo’s approach to Italian cuisine is to use the freshest and finest ingredients, expertly prepared to bring out the full flavor of the food. The dinner menu features classic seafood and pasta dishes. Kolonja does not call himself a chef, although he creates the menu himself using traditional recipes and classic ingredients.

He has no formal culinary training but says, “There are two schools, the classroom and learning from those you work with every day. Working and tasting the food is the best education. You must taste your creations to know that they are good.”

Kolonja now is in the role of the teacher—training those who work with him in the kitchen and dining room, as he once learned from the experiences of others. He says: “Our success comes from our teamwork here, starting from the front of the restaurant, where Vasi and Melissa are my right hand people in the dining room, keeping the customers happy. Kathy’s smile welcomes people to the cozy bar. And Arsen and Grego work closely in the kitchen with me, where we learn together every day to keep our customers happy.”

Bringing families together
Angelo’ success is a testament to just how good Kolonja’s recipes are. Many of his diners travel from as far away as New Jersey to enjoy the food. Earning their repeat business shows Kolonja that he’s doing something right.

In addition to the dinner menu, Angelo’s Sempre Famigla offers a three-course family style meal on Sunday evenings with a choice of soup, salad and entree for two. It’s a reasonably priced way for a family to share a meal.

Even the bar here is intended to bring people together. “We have a bar,” Kolonja says “but it is not to attract the young crowd."

The bar is friendly, a good place to meet friends or wait for your date.

“I want to see couples sit down here who are talking about creating a future together. I want to see them plan their engagement party, rehearsal dinner and baby shower here.” Angelo’s hosts these types of events in its private banquet room, which can accommodate up to 60 people for parties, showers and meetings. They also have an off-site catering service and take-out menu so that families can spend time relaxing together at home while they enjoy a  meal Angelo’s has prepared for them.

Lunch with friends
Another way that Angelo’s seeks to simplify life for its customers is with its lunch buffet. Created to meet the needs of local business people who want a quick but well prepared meal, the buffet is available Monday through Friday and offers various selections from the menu.

Lunch at Angelo’s is certainly a necessity for the regulars, some of whom say they have been meeting here for more than five years. Diner Sam DiMaio calls Angelo’s “The best kept secret in Warminster” to which Frank Volpe adds, “…in Bucks County!”

They are eager to share their love of Angelo’s, even if it means letting the secret out. When asked what keeps them coming back, Frank says, “It’s a healthy, homemade and reasonably priced lunch.” Sam looks to server Brenda Tetkowski and adds, “The service is second to none.”

“It’s like a social club,” adds Ernie Prosperi and indeed, these guys even help to plan events such as their monthly ‘Tripe Night.’ Though it is open to anyone, the date for this dinner is planned around the schedule of these regulars, for whom Kolonja prepares this traditional Italian specialty that few other restaurants offer. For those who don’t enjoy tripe, the ‘Festa Della Pasta,’ held the first Tuesday of every month, allows diners to try something new. Patrons can choose three pasta dishes for their table from a wide menu of regional Italian favorites.

DiMaio, Volpe and Prosperi all say that they return day after day because of Kolonja, who agrees his customers are friends and more. They’re family. “They come in every day. If we don’t see them for a few days, we worry and we call them.” He says they share their lives and care about one another’s problems. When asked if caring about others is the key to success, Kolonja proclaims “It is success.”

Thanks to word-of-mouth, the family at Angelo’s continues to grow as regulars bring their friends. Customers may come for the incredible food, but they return because as the very name Angelo’s Sempre Famiglia indicates, they are “Always Family.”

Angelo’s Sempre Famiglia
41 York Road, Warminster
Open Sunday through Thursday 11a.m.
to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m
to 11p.m.

Sharon A. Shaw is a freelance writer in Bucks County.
Rob Hall is a freelance photographer from Plumstead.