When John Bove decided to open a restaurant in Malta in the early 1980s, theme restaurants were all the rage. So he looked for a concept around which he could build his place.
He toyed with the idea of a Marilyn Monroe-themed restaurant, but decided he’d need a Victorian house to make that work. John Wayne intrigued him, but the restaurant would have to look like a depot.
Bove’s building looked more like an old roadhouse — the kind of place where Frank Sinatra made his name. So that, Bove decided, would be the focus of his restaurant, and the My Way Cafe was born.
The concept has been a hit the My Way Cafe is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. And while Bove stressed that a theme restaurant is nothing without good food, the Sinatra angle certainly has its appeal. The restaurant has monthly Sinatra tribute nights, including two shows planned for Father’s Day, that have been steady draws in the 15 years Bove has been offering them. The Father’s Day shows always bring a packed house.
You usually get your dad a lawn mower or a fishing rod or a tie,` said Bove, a father three times over himself. `This is something different. It’s something he’ll remember.`
The restaurant’s silver anniversary isn’t the only career milestone Bove is celebrating this year. It’s been 50 years since he first got his start in the restaurant business. Long before he was hanging pictures of Sinatra on the walls of his restaurant at routes 9 and 67, he ran Roma Pizzeria in Cohoes. Then he moved to Clifton Park, expanded and upgraded, running The Roma where Ravenswood is now located.
Bove’s parents are Italian immigrants, and they too were restaurant owners. His mom was the namesake of Mary’s in Troy, where Bove honed his cooking skills. He also learned about the trade by reading lots of books.
Initially, though, he thought he would pursue a different career path. At Hudson Valley Community College, he studied business and engineering. But after a short stint as an electrician, he got his start in the food business.
`It was just sandwiches and pizza, and now here I am,` he said.
His decision to move to Malta came after Roma proved so popular that Bove wanted to try something smaller. It was hard work managing a big staff, he said.
That’s not a problem at My Way Cafe. There are only four people who work there. Bove does all of the cooking, two women wait tables and Bove’s wife, Susan, does a little bit of everything, working behind the bar, serving food, helping to open and close.
Like John, Susan has a long history in food service. She’s worked for 35 years as the food service manager at Little Sisters of the Poor in Latham. Bove’s mother was a resident there, and when Susan heard 15 years ago that he needed help at his restaurant, she came on board. About eight years later, they were married.
They’ve never had a problem working together, both say. There’s no great secret to their working relationship; they simply enjoy each other and their jobs.
`We’re best friends,` Susan said.
She admitted that when she first started at My Way Cafe, she wasn’t too familiar with Sinatra’s songs. Over the years, though, she’s grown fond of the man nicknamed Ol’ Blue Eyes and even boasted that his great-niece has stopped in to eat several times.
Bove said he tries to keep people coming back with an emphasis on fresh ingredients. All of the restaurant’s dishes are made to order, many of them accented by herbs he grows in a garden behind the restaurant. This year, he had to move the garden to his house because of the construction (created by Global Foundries) outside the restaurant. One of his specialties is flower pot herb bread, which he makes daily in 4-inch containers.
Bove is grateful that people have continued to come to the restaurant despite the construction and looks forward to welcoming fathers and families on Father’s Day. He’s not sure how many more Father’s Days he’ll have at the restaurant; he just turned 73 and has an eye on retirement.
`I keep saying that, but I just really enjoy what I do,` he said.
Singer Brian D. will perform Sinatra songs at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21. Dinner and the show cost $25.95 and include a choice of 12 entrees. Reservations are suggested by calling the My Way Cafe at 899-4196. “