NEWTOWN, Conn. — At the age of 16, Tony Ramadani, owner of the new Red Rooster Pub in Newtown, came the U.S. from Albania and took a job as a busboy in a Trumbull pizza place.
Little did he know that he would work his way up the ladder to eventually become the owner of over 15 restaurants.
Red Rooster Pub, at 160 S. Main St., serves American cuisine, including burgers, salads, sandwiches and pizzas, as well as wraps, soups and dips. The salads include baby kale and quinoa, arugula fennel, and Mediterranean.
“We offer make-your-own salads,” said Ramadani’s wife, Furtuna, who owns the restaurant with her husband. “You can add any ingredients to any salad that you want.”
Gourmet burgers include the Rooster turkey, which contains guacamole, pico de Gallo and spinach; French, which contains mushroom, caramelized onions, and brie; and Tex-Mex, which contains bison, jalapeno, guacamole, pico de Gallo and American cheese.
The restaurant serves 22 kinds of pizza -- many with unique flavor combinations, including pulled pork and mango; genoa salami and ricotta; and mashed potato, bacon and scallion.
“We come up with the ingredients and we have our staff taste it first,” Tony Ramadani said.
“Sometimes, they think I’m crazy,” he joked.
Aside from Red Rooster Pub, the Ramadanis also own Max 40 and Max Wine & Spirits on Mill Plain Road in Danbury and Portofino Restaurant & Pizzeria in Wilton. For the Red Rooster Pub, they took over the space of the former Mona Lisa Restaurant, which closed.
The Ramadanis, who live in Ridgefield, travel to restaurants all over the world, including Switzerland, Germany, Italy and Greece, to get ideas for designs for their restaurants.
“We like to do unique interior designs,” Furtuna Ramadani said.
At Red Rooster Pub, which they built and designed, there is a lot of wood, fireplaces and a patio that will be open in spring.
“We will have the most killer patio, with colorful flowers and plants, trees and a lot of landscaping,” she said. “It will look like a garden.”
“Hopefully we will be a landmark here,” Tony Ramadano said.
His "business school" was all his years of experience in the field, he said.
At the age of 18, he opened his first restaurant, called Portofino, in New Fairfield.
“I researched the market and borrowed money from friends. I saved all my money, and put it into the restaurant,” he said. “It was a home run."
Throughout his 40-year career in restaurants, he has performed every job there is, he said. This give him camaraderie with his entire staff.
“I can relate to them because I was one of them,” he said. “I work side by side with my staff every day.”
He has also contributed to job growth. “We have over 150 to 200 people employed between all our restaurants. They are employed in 60 to 70 jobs, including waiters, bartenders, managers, cooks, hostesses, food runners, chef, line cooks and dishwashers," he said. "We are always hiring."
On Sundays, the Red Rooster Pub will soon offer live entertainment including country music, as well as songs from the '80s and '90s.
The Ramadanis will be opening a new restaurant, called Max Brine Fish and Sushi, in Woodbury, in April.