All in the Family 


For the Sawars, the restaurant business is a family affair. Mom, Dad, and sons are all involved in the Sawars' four area La Hacienda restaurants, Soprano's Italian Restaurant in Southaven, and the newest restaurant, Fino Villa, which opened in Collierville on September 23rd.

"What we did in Southaven, we did 10 times better in Collierville," says Tony Sawar. "Over the year, we looked at the things that worked and everything that didn't. We embraced all of the flaws and fixed them."

Beginning October 23rd, Fino Villa will begin serving Sunday brunch that will include complimentary mimosas, a carving station, and an omelet station. Tony also plans to launch monthly cooking demonstrations.

Both Fino Villa and Soprano's are traditional Italian restaurants with decors that mix modern (black leather and chrome) with Old World (hand-painted murals and canvases). They bring to mind Chicago eateries from the Al Capone era, which is no surprise because the Sawar family worked in the Chicago restaurant business before Tony and his brother Dino were born.

"My dad attended two presidents [Ford and Carter] in their private suites while he was the maitre d' at the Hyatt in Chicago," Tony says.

Since moving to the area, the family has opened seven restaurants in as many years. Mother Maria Guzman Sawar applies her Mexican heritage to making the La Hacienda restaurants a success, while the brothers focus on upscale dining at the Italian restaurants. When planning Fino Villa, Tony and Dino wanted to design a bar area where guests could relax after a meal and enjoy a cigar with a fine cognac, such as the Remy Martin Louis XIII (at $225 an ounce). The bar selection also includes fine wines and aged ports and whiskey.

"Anyone who has a discriminating palate will find something that suits them," Tony says. "That also applies to our food. We try to be innovative in our high-quality cuisine. I wouldn't want to serve anything that I wouldn't eat, so we buy the best meats and bake our own bread from scratch every morning."

Fino Villa's general manager is Michele D'Oto, a native of Modena, Italy, and an experienced restaurateur. He evacuated from the Gulf Coast before Hurricane Katrina to stay with his brother-in-law in Collierville.

"I was the chef/owner of Pasta Italia [in D'Iberville, Mississippi, outside of Biloxi] until about four weeks ago, when the hurricane destroyed everything -- the restaurant, our home, everything," D'Oto says.

D'Oto got the job at Fino Villa the first time he visited the restaurant. "I was at the Baskin-Robbins getting ice cream when I saw Fino Villa, and I just walked right in."

Fino Villa, 875 W. Poplar Avenue in Collierville (861-2626), is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

Café de France will participate in the "Miracles Begin with Awareness" Show House, a home tour to benefit the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, being held on Friday and Saturday, October 7th and 8th, at 1219 Cherbourg in the Normandy Park area.

The restaurant will offer lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a tented pavilion next to the house. Memphis singer Di Anne Price will perform.

Admission to the house is $15 per person, and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the charity. A portion of the luncheon sales also will be donated.

For information, call 901-226-CURE.

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