Meal times at Grandma Finelli’s house were something to behold. After emigrating from southern Italy in the early 1900s, Maria Scarenzi Finelli had 12 children, who went on to have many children of their own. On Sunday afternoons, 40-50 people would sit down for Grandma Finelli’s spaghetti and meatballs and baked penne.
Grandma Finelli didn’t teach her grandson David how to cook. She didn’t have to. “You constantly see good food being prepared, you eat good food, you don’t have to be taught how to cook it. You just know how to do it,” says David, the owner of Finelli’s Café. Business couldn’t be better at Finelli’s Café.
The restaurant moved into a new space on Red Banks Road in early 2007, enlarging capacity from 1,400 square feet to 5,000. “It was packed every night before and it’s packed every night now,” says Finelli, who describes himself as Italian-American on one side of his family and “southern North Carolinian” on the other.
Along with an emphasis on top-notch customer service, Finelli also credits Greenville itself with his restaurant’s success. As an educational and medical hub, he says there are a lot of people who come into Greenville regularly to work and for recreation, and the university guarantees a great workforce of servers, bartenders and cooks. But to be successful, every restaurant must have good food and a certain ambiance, and Finelli’s has both.
The restaurant specializes in “simple authentic homemade food” and is known especially for filet mignon, lamb chops, fresh tuna and salmon and an extensive wine list. And the woman on the cover of the menu? That’s Grandma Finelli, whose packed Sunday dinners are now recreated at Finelli’s Café all week long.