I had the opportunity to speak with Franco Russo of Two Meatballs Restaurant in Fort Myers and we got to talking about his dad.....Alfredo Russo....I had met him before but it surprised me to learn Franco was Alfredo's son, just never made the connection I guess.
I met Alfredo back in 2001, while working at the Island Sand Paper, met him at Junkanoos getting him to advertise in the "new" Beach paper.... and over the next 15 years we got to get to know each other better, I am proud to say I had the opportunity to know Alfredo. Whether at Junkanoos, the Fresh Catch or “The Ship” restaurant on Route 41in Bonita Springs: modeled after a 16th century Spanish Galleon and later,
The Sunset Beach Grill and The Playmore Tiki Bar...... Alfredo, has left his mark on South West Florida!
"The Ship" Restaurant & Tavern, in Bonita, I think was his coolest concept, I had eaten here a dozen times before I even met Alfredo
He had a heart of gold, he was well loved a
nd respected on Fort Myers Beach. One of his favorite quotes was... "In shallow men, the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds, the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.” --Yukteswar Giri
By chance, I ran into Alfredo on a flight headed to Boston one day, 7 or 8 years ago, and we had a chance to chat a bit, Alfredo loved the beach and all its people, he really was a nice guy.
"Prior to my father passing away in 2016, he told me he wanted to retire and open a small Italian restaurant, just to keep himself busy. That always stuck with me" Franco said.
Fort Myers location
He continued... "Luigi (Franco's partner) and I looked at a few different locations but in 2018 when I caught wind that Two Meatballs was for sale, I jumped on the opportunity. I knew the place had been there for a long time and had a great reputation. When we took it over, we decided to keep everything the same, as if ownership didn’t even change hands."
With the pandemic, now being over a yearlong, I asked Franco how the restaurant was doing? "We've had it a little over 2 years now and even through all this Covid adversity, not only is the Fort Myers location going strong, but we recently opened our second location in Cape Coral, which is doing very well."
cape coral location
I asked him what was the best compliment he has received... "Every year we have a very close family friend come stay with us from Italy, his name is also Luigi but everyone calls him Billy, because as a baby, he had blonde hair and blue eyes, so everyone teased his parents that he looked American so they gave him an American nickname. One night we were sitting outside of Two Meatballs and he said to me in Italian"..... “it’s crazy, everyone leaves here with a bag of food and a smile on their face."
They even won Best of Cape Coral Award last year!
Later, I caught up with his partner Luigi, we talked about his experience, he said he had been in the restaurant business for 35 yrs, working for others and running his own businesses too. Then he went on to tell me how he met Alfredo some 25 yrs ago, at Anthony's On The Gulf, which is now The Fresh Catch Bistro. "I hit it off with Alfredo right away, we were buddies until his death and I miss him every day. As for Franco, I met him when he was a pre teen and now we work together at 2 meatballs ... you just never know." he said.
We talked a little more about family, I'm Italian too (The food here is amazing, and believe me, as an native Italian... I don't say that about most Italian restaurants) and know how important family is, he replied, "I am blessed with a loving and caring wife, a son and now a grandson, all healthy .... thank god"
So I asked him what makes 2 meatballs so special. "It's simple, quality food at affordable prices"
Zuppa di Pesce
"Our homemade sauces are unmatched and our signature dish, Zuppa di Pesce is to die for. "....."The Smiling faces of our customers tell me about their experience while here and when they come back, that lets me know we are doing it right." He added... "with my experienced staff, a good partner and my right hand man Sergio, I cannot miss."
Of course Franco is still owner of his dad's two beach restaurants, the Junkanoo and Fresh Catch, but his General Manager, Neal, Christine, the controller and Manager, Jerry have those restaurants handled....
I asked him about the future of 2 Meatballs..... "We will be continue to look for opportunities to grow the concept within 2021, having Luigi with me feels like a piece of my father is still here, they have very similar characters and even mannerisms, it is truly is blessing. I hope he’s proud up there!
2 Meatballs now has two locations, and are open from 11:00 AM - 9:30 PM
remember to tell them “Bobby sent me”
8880 Salrose Lane,
Fort Myers, Fl
1403 Cape Coral Pkwy
E, Cape Coral, Fl,