Following is the interview of Tesoro owner and chef Raffaele Sainato which appeared in the premier edition of the Greater Guilderland Coupon Cart magazine (published March 2010) -


A Few Questions with 
Raffaele Sainato

 Executive Chef and Co-Owner of Tesoro in Guilderland


Chef Raffaele, is it true that you are the first generation in your family to live in this country?  Please share with us a bit about where you emigrated from and what brought you here to Guilderland . . . . 

RS: Yes, this is true. In August 1974, I came to Albany from Gioiosa Ionica, Italy. It’s a small coastal town in the southern region of Calabria. My parents wanted me to have a chance at a better life, so at the age of 17 they sent me to Albany to live with my aunt and uncle. At first, I thought I would be here only a few years, but those few years have turned into 35, because shortly thereafter, I met a wonderful local girl who became my wife.


So now that we know where to find authentic Italian food here in Guilderland, please tell us how you got started in the restaurant business, and what your path was to owning your own restaurant, Tesoro.

RS: One of my first jobs in the U.S. was at The Italian American Center in Albany. I started as a dishwasher and worked my way on to the cooking line. When I would go back to visit Italy, I made sure to pay even more attention to my mother as she cooked for us. As my kitchen experience grew, a local restaurant owner noticed me and offered me the Executive Chef position at Michele Da Verona in 1983. I worked there until 1991, when I was offered the Executive Chef position at Lombardo’s in downtown Albany. I remained there as Executive Chef until September 2008, when I opened Tesoro in Guilderland.


What is your favorite dish to prepare?

RS: Scallopine di vitello al prosciutto e formaggio (veal scallopine with prosciutto and cheese) is my favorite dish to prepare, because of all the wonderful responses I have received from my customers, telling me that they truly enjoyed the dish.


Do you do all the cooking at Tesoro?

RS: No, Sous Chef Zinneddine is a critical part of the kitchen at Tesoro, and also a very dear friend of mine. He shares my passion for Italian food and is also a partner in this restaurant.We have worked together for the past 20 years. As a matter of fact, our passion, work ethic, and love of family helped us come up with the name Tesoro, which means “treasure” in Italian. Our entire staff also have years of experience in the restaurant business, helping us to provide our customers with a pleasant dining experience every time they visit.


Other than your partner, are there any other close friends or family that work at Tesoro?

RS: Yes, in fact I don’t think we would have been able to open the restaurant without the help of my wife, Michele and our four children. They have all spent time in the restaurant in one capacity or another. Michele and I have tried to instill the same passion and work ethic in our children to help guide them in whatever career path they choose. It appears that they were listening all those years. Our oldest son, Rocco, is finishing his last year of law school in Washington, DC, our son Michael has joined the Navy, Joseph is a sophomore at Siena College, and Stefano is a sophomore at Albany High School. Even with all of their other commitments, they have still made time to contribute to Tesoro in order to ensure that the restaurant runs as smoothly as possible. We are very proud of all our children.


First of all, on behalf of everyone at The Coupon Cart Magazine, we thank your son and every other brave member of our Armed Forces for their service.  Tell us a bit more about your son in the Navy. Is serving his country something that he always wanted to do?

RS: Michael is living a lifelong dream of being in the Navy, specifically the Navy SEAL Program. He has always been passionate about his ideals, and has been dedicated to this dream for some time. His dedication and passion carry over into everything that he does. I do not think I could have made it through Tesoro’s first year without his help. He was one of our managers and he kept a watchful eye on everything in the restaurant. It is a lot to ask of a 20 year old, but now it is time for him to live his dream. As his parents, we are so very proud of his choice to serve in the military. I feel it takes a great person of courage and strength to become a member of the U.S. Armed Forces--a role many of us take often take for granted. As an immigrant, I can say there is no better country in which to live and I praise all those (past and present) who keep our great nation safe.


 Even though your restaurant is new, your location was also previously a well-known Italian restaurant. Your advertisements and coupons have been seen in other major coupon magazines over the years. Can you tell us what it was about the Coupon Cart that made you try a small, local, family-owned “startup” business, when you could just continue to advertise with the largest media corporations in the business?

RS: As small business owners, it is very important to us to support other small businesses. We realize the hard work and dedication it takes to run a small business, and wish to reward others who are doing the same. Also, personally, 
I feel that with small businesses, such as Tesoro and Coupon Cart, there is much more attention to detail and pride in one’s work. I believe that this results in a better end product, whether it be preparing a dish with the best ingredients possible, or providing an invaluable service to local business owners.



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