Carl Sofo says a serious auto accident has led him to retire and sell Trattoria Sofo in Sylvania.
Restaurant owner Carl Sofo is proud that customers approaching his kitchen were never stopped by signs proclaiming: "Employees only."
"Anybody can come in and a lot of people did," said the restaurateur, who is retiring from the business after 36 years.
General Manager Michael Fletcher will take over Trattoria Sofo in downtown Sylvania tonight.
A serious auto accident seven months ago forced Mr. Sofo to retire his chef's hat and ultimately led to his decision to sell the cozy Italian eatery he has operated for eight years.
The head-on collision left the 58-year-old restaurant owner with limited use of his right hand. "I'm unable to do what I love best," he said through an Italian accent. "I have to accept it and move on."
A compact man with a commanding presence, Mr. Sofo learned to cook at his mother's knee in the southern Italian region of Calabria. When he was 13, his family emigrated to the United States. His father worked as a baker for Wonder Bread in Toledo.
After graduating from the University of Toledo, Carl Sofo worked for a time as a teacher at Central Catholic High School. One summer, he accepted a manager's job at the Frisch's Big Boy chain.
He stayed on. Then, in 1974, he and his sister, Maria, opened a restaurant in Point Place, Casa di Maria. It was one of four Italian restaurants in a town whose knowledge of the European nation's cuisine was mostly limited to spaghetti and meatballs, pizza, and lasagna.
The siblings' restaurant was one of the first in the area to introduce dishes such as Gnocchi and scallopini veal dishes like Saltimbocca and Milanese.
He closed the Point Place restaurant after his sister died in 2001. By then, Mr. Sofo and wife Jeanne had opened their current establishment in Sylvania.
Mr. Sofo said he won't stop working entirely. He plans to teach sociology and economics as part of a program at Owens Community College that allows high school students to earn college credits.
His life, he said, has taken a different path than he expected when first entering college. "I fell in love with the restaurant business and here I am 35 years later," he said.
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