When we were seven years old, we started helping out: mopping floors, peeling potatoes, washing dishes," says Lou Lanzi. "My parents always said, 'A little work will never hurt you.'
That simple approach has carried four generations of Lanzi's to success in the restaurant business. And nowhere can you see the success more clearly than at Lanzi's on the Lake.
"Everything's Homemade" including the family's own salad dressing. "We've had it since 1957," Chris Lanzi, executive chef, explains. "My father had just opened up Lorenzo's, and he wanted something unique to draw people in. My brother Lou first made up the dressing; my father tasted it and said, 'Geez, it has potential.' It's kind of a creamy Italian, but we threw a few other things into it, and there's really not another one like it." Salad devotees can buy bottles of the special dressing, not only at our restaurants, but also at Chatterbox in Amsterdam - owned, naturally, by two Lanzi sisters.
The reward for such outstanding cuisine comes from the patrons. "I get tons of comments," says Lou. "Just last Friday, we served people from New York City that have a camp near here. His job is entertaining clients in Manhattan, so he goes to all the best restaurants. He told us our food was as good, if not better, than any restaurant in Manhattan. That was quite a compliment."
Creating all this success began with the ingredient that carries it to this day: hard work. "When our grandfather came over from Rome, he worked on the railroad and in the carpet mills," Lou recounts. "He worked two jobs because he wanted to own his own business." In about three years, he realized that dream by buying a small store. From that humble start, he eventually owned a Prohibition-era speakeasy and Amsterdam's only banquet house complete with professional boxing in the back room.
Growing up in those circumstances was Lorenzo, who learned the trade at his father's restaurants and shared his entrepreneurial spirit. "In the '50s, Dad wanted to get out on his own," Lou says, "so he broke away and opened his own restaurant" - the same Lorenzo's that delighted Amsterdam patrons for years. True to his upbringing, Lorenzo set his own nine children to work in the new restaurant. The result? His five sons: Lou, Chris, Tony, Joe and Larry now operate Lanzi's on the Lake, Sport Island Pub, Partner's Pub,and Lakeside Tavern and marina - not to mention a flourishing off-premises catering business.
And then there's the work of passing on the business to the next generation - a process that, according to Lou, is already beginning. "When my son was eight - he put the apron on, wrote the specials down, took water to the tables, and set up. He's very serious about it. One day, 'Dad, how old do you have to be in order to be a busboy?' I said, 'Thirteen.' He said, 'Darn it!"'
Not to worry. His day will come - because the Lanzi legacy should continue pleasing patrons for generations!