Tutti’s is not going anywhere.
The beloved family-owned Saugatuck restaurant celebrates its 20th anniversary this month. It should be a joyous time.
But a report on a local news site — headlined “With Hamlet Looming, Future Uncertain for Tutti’s Ristorante” — led to rumors of its imminent demise.
“People think we’re closing right after Christmas,” laments co-owner Maria Funicello.
“One person — a regular customer — was mad we hadn’t told him.”
They hadn’t told him, because it’s not true. Tutti’s is here for the long run.
The Hamlet at Saugatuck — a hotel/residential/retail project in and around the train station — is still in its developmental stage. Any changes to the popular restaurant — on Riverside Avenue, at the “T” with Charles Street — are a ways off.
Maria’s history in Westport extends far beyond Tutti’s. Her husband Pasquale Funicello owned Angelina’s — for nearly a decade. His partners included his father, mother and 2 sisters. They sold the Post Road trattoria in 1981.
Pasquale and Maria had been married the year before. They moved back to their native Italy, and started a family. In 1989 the Funicellos and their children returned to the US.
She worked full-time. He made a name as a chef at memorable area restaurants, including Sole e Luna, Pinocchio, Arthur Avenue, Sunset Grille and Apulia.
In December 2002 the couple took a leap of faith, opening their own place, in a former video rental shop. Tutti Invitati soon became simply Tutti’s.
It was a great addition to Saugatuck — an homage to the neighborhood’s Italian heritage.
It still is.
The formula has not changed much. Diners — regulars and newcomers alike — are welcomed into the Funicellos’ home away from home. The space is just the right size. The décor is simple, yet warm.
And the food is delizioso.
The secret to Tutti’s success?
“We’re a family. And we treat customers like family,” Maria explains.
The other day, a customer celebrated his 90th birthday. The owners presented a complimentary bottle of wine,
They thank firefighters from the nearby station by feeding them regularly. When a homeless man walks in, they feed him too.
Customers return the love.
When COVID struck, Tutti’s did not miss a beat. Their already steady takeout business boomed.
“We were so busy,” Maria recalls. “People bought gift certificates they still haven’t redeemed. They handed us cash, and said, ‘Use it for whatever you need.’ They really weren’t our customers. They were like family.”
That’s why the recent rumors of Tutti’s’ demise hurt so much.
“They’re nice people. We’re working with them,” Maria says of the Hamlet developers.
“The Gault project (the previous Saugatuck redevelopment) looks great. I’m sure this one will be beautiful too.
“Whatever happens, happens. But it’s a long way away.”
Nothing is changing at Tutti’s. Certainly not the menu.
The pastas, other entrees, soups, salads, desserts and specials — like the ristorante itself, they’re not going anywhere.
“We’re settled. We know what we’re doing,” Maria says.
Tuesday was typical. At 3 p.m. — the slow, catch-your-breath time between lunch and dinner — several diners lingered. A construction worker picked up a meal to go. The phone chirped constantly, with takeout orders.
Through it al, Pasquale was in the back, cooking. Maria was out front — her usual warm, welcoming self.
Everyone was happy. Tutti’s was open for business.
And — as it celebrates its 20th anniversary — it still will be, for years to come.