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The Daily Tar Heel

Family Adds Spice to Franklin

There were the Danzigers in the 1950s and the Julians in the 1970s.

And now, there are the DiBartolos.

Chapel Hill has a long history of family-run businesses, and the DiBartolo family is keeping this tradition alive on Franklin Street.

The family, which employs at least 50 people, owns and operates four restaurants in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, three of which are located in prime spots along Franklin Street.

The DiBartolo family moved to Chapel Hill seven years ago and brought with them a history of family-run businesses.

Each of the family's four members runs one of the family restaurants.

"We all run one," said Joe DiBartolo, who operates I Love N.Y. Pizza, located at 106 W. Franklin St. "There's mom, dad, sister and me."

But the DiBartolos have created a family atmosphere that extends beyond their immediate family, said Mike Crusco, the head chef of Valentino's.

Dave Crusco, Mike's brother, is a manager for the restaurant, located at 100 W. Franklin St. Crusco's cousin, Vinnie Camaj, works with Joe DiBartolo at I Love N.Y. Pizza just a few doors down.

"Everybody's family here," Crusco said. "I'm in no way related to Joe (DiBartolo), but he's like my brother. I could ask Joe for anything."

Robert Humphreys, director of Chapel Hill's Downtown Commission, said 80 percent of businesses on Franklin Street are independently owned and operated.

"I think it's the nature of the street," Humphreys said.

"We've been able to maintain the small town, village-like atmosphere," he added.

Before the DiBartolos came to the area in 1994, they owned restaurants in Italy and New York.

They got their start in the Triangle by opening Anna Maria's Pizzeria in Carrboro, which is named after Joe's daughter.

Three years later, the family started I Love N.Y. Pizza.

Building on the success of these two pizzerias, the DiBartolos expanded their operations with the opening of Valentino's and California Pizza Cafe, located at 201 E. Franklin St.

Humphreys said the DiBartolo family is not the first to open a string of businesses along Franklin Street.

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The Danziger family, in the 1950s, owned and operated three Franklin Street restaurants including The Rathskeller, located at 157 1/2 E. Franklin St., Humphreys said.

He also recalled the Julian family, who by the mid-1970s owned three clothing stores on Franklin Street.

Only one of the family's three original shops, Julian's, located at 140 E. Franklin St., remains today.

Despite a nationwide trend toward large, corporate-run businesses, Humphreys said Chapel Hill residents have supported independently owned businesses, evidenced by the success of the DiBartolo family.

"(The DiBartolo family) certainly has added diversity to Franklin Street," he said. "They obviously know the formula to a successful business."

Family members say they pride themselves on their authentic Italian cuisine and New York-style pizza, and in a thick New York accent, Crusco said it is the best in the area.

"If you put this in Manhattan, we wouldn't be original," Crusco said.

"Since it's in Chapel Hill, we're original."

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