All in the family at Rutland restaurant - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

All in the family at Rutland restaurant

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RUTLAND, Vt. -

"That's actually a really good flavor," said Jill Michel.

Michel and her mother, Jerri are hard at work in the kitchen of The Palms. The fifth generation Rutland City Italian restaurant was established in 1933 by John Sabataso's grandparents.  And now, 80 years later, is owned by Sabataso and his wife Jerri -- and still in the family.

Reporter Ali Freeman: When did you two meet?

Jerri Sabataso: High school.    

John Sabataso: High school? How about grade school. When I was playing the drums at Christ The King School -- and she told her girlfriend. I was in the 8th grade and she was in the 7th grade. She said I'm going to marry the drummer some day, and that was it for me.

Sabataso said the restaurant has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. Between tough competition in Rutland and a fire in the 70's, it's been a roller coaster ride.  And the key to their success?  "Family," Sabataso said. "Family works together. Family business is tough. You put everything on the table and are honest with each other and you do the best you can and that is what we have had."

Some family members even come and work hours for free. And during even the toughest of times, Sabataso said everyone in the family pitches in.  Sabataso's son, Jim, said growing up in the restaurant and being a part of a family business can be challenging, but that the good memories he and his siblings share are priceless. "Falling asleep in booths; waiting for my parents to get done work; getting on the milk crate when I was four or five years old; rolling meatballs with my grandmother in the kitchen," he said.

The Sabatasos say anyone who comes through The Palms front door is really extended family to them. "70 or 80 year old woman -- she said I had my first date at The Palms restaurant. So you know, it's memories like that -- that generation after generation families have come here and been a part of our tradition," Jim said.

The family said keeping up with tradition is key, but constantly evolving is just as important. Each generation that passes through The Palms puts their own trademark on the restaurant. Most recently, an event space and ballroom was completely redone and finished just last week.

After half-a-century of running The Palms, John and Jerri are starting to pass the restaurant down to younger generations. They say now they can spend more time with family and try to keep track of all their names.  Keeping a business in the family -- and the family in the business.

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