Cranston, Rhode Island
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In The News
As solid as Twin Oaks: Cranston restaurant's legacy at 80 years
CRANSTON —Back in the 1980s, the list of 100 independent restaurants with the highest dollar volume of food and beverage sales in America was topped by the likes of Tavern on the Green in New York City, Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston and the cow-centric Hilltop Steak House up the road in Saugus.
Now, all three of those iconic spots are closed. But the Rhode Island restaurant that also spent years on that list, continues to serve lunch and dinner. Cranston’s Twin Oaks’ legacy is firmly intact after 80 years.
With staff who count their years of service by the decade, and the third and fourth generations of the founding DeAngelus family working at the restaurant, Twin Oaks is beating the odds every day.
“We are a dinosaur,” said general manager Frank Caduto, 72. “There just aren’t restaurants our size anymore.”
Twin Oaks has 650 seats overlooking Spectacle Pond at 100 Sabra St.
It also has many long-time employees committed to success. Caduto is just one example. He has been at the restaurant for 50 years. He came to work at Twin Oaks for the man he called his “best friend.” That best friend who has just taken over running the restaurant.
“We were so proud of this business,” Caduto said of the 30 men who worked at the restaurant when he began in 1964. He said second generation owner William DeAngelus Jr., “Billy Jr.,” was new to the job but growing the business.
“We felt we were the foundation and we were doing something special.”
They worked split shifts, day and night, and looked out for each other, he added.
“If someone was sick, you worked for them. And at the end of the shift you went to their home to bring them the tips. We did that for each other, for a long time,” Caduto said.
Today there are 180 employees working in the family atmosphere, which begins with the ownership. The DeAngelus family started Twin Oaks and the portrait of founders William “Bill” Sr. and wife Eva still hangs in the entrance, their image frozen in time. The couple began with a Prohibition-era speakeasy in their home's basement starting in 1928 there on the same property. Bill served his homemade moonshine and Eva made sandwiches. Twin Oaks, the restaurant, opened near the house in 1933.
Their son Billy Jr. didn’t just take over and lead the restaurant through a period of growth, he also had the daunting task of rebuilding after a devastating fire in 1980. When he died in 1999, several of Billy Jr.’s five children stepped in to take over. Today Susan DeAngelus Valles and her brother William DeAngelus III, “Billy,” run Twin Oaks for the family. Three of their children and two of brother Jimmy’s work with them.
“My father and grandfather worked too hard for us to let it go,” said Susan who celebrated the 80th anniversary last week with a family party and a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with Cranston Mayor Allan Fung.
“You always hear that the third generation kills family businesses. Well, over my dead body,” Susan said.
Things in the hospitality business have changed of course. There is plenty of competition for dining dollars and they don’t open up all of the six dining rooms most nights as they used to in the go-go days of the ’80s. But they certainly are surviving and still serve lunch and dinner every day but Monday.
Billy DeAngelus says they keep diners coming in by providing “the biggest bang for the buck — big portions, good prices.”
Still they’ve added wine dinners, said Susan, and introduced new cocktails as they expanded the drink menu for the three bars. They also host many private parties for showers, collations, first communions and other family events.
When her father was alive Susan worked in the kitchen. Now she leaves that to head chef Bill Smith and a crew that has all worked at Twin Oaks for 30 to 40 plus years, including Donald Zarra, Bobby Carulo and Michael Whitmore.
BY GAIL CIAMPA
Journal Food Editor