Steve Martorano Sues Copycat Restaurant in Rhode Island for Stealing Theme

Categories: Broward News
Martorano, working the turntables at his Oakland Park location, has sued to protect the concept he created 30 years ago.
If you've been to Café Martorano, you know there's no restaurant like it. The white walls, the huge bar in the center, the booming music, the videos of old gangster movies -- nobody does dining like this. Then there's the food: throwbacks to Italian-American classics that make restaurant critics rave and diners wondering if he puts something addictive in the sauce.

So when someone copies the concept, that gets owner Steve Martorano's attention. Last month, Martorano filed this federal lawsuit in Providence, Rhode Island, accusing a restaurant there of unfairly copying Café Martorano's concept.

The lawsuit accuses restaurateur Jerry Longo of robbing Martorano's concept for his  Café Longo restaurant. Longo didn't return a phone call from the Juice, but in this answer to the lawsuit filed September 17, he denied that he stole the concept.

Martorano says he hadn't considered filing a suit until he read a newspaper story from Providence that quoted Longo saying that Longo had invented the concept 30 years ago in Fort Lauderdale.

"I started this music-and-videos concept 30 years ago," Martorano said. "Lots of people try to copy it, but when you say you invented it, that rubs me the wrong way. That's not right."

Martorano said he looked at the menu and saw too many similarities. His "eggplant stack" is the same dish as Longo's "eggplant on the hill." His calamari and peppers and his meatball and salad are too similar to dishes on Longo's menu, Martorano said.

"When you look at his menu and you look at my menu, there are too many things the same," Martorano said.

Martorano and Longo actually have a long history together. They know each other from the same South Philadelphia neighborhood where they grew up, and they've worked together in the past. They worked together during a party for the cast of The Sopranos at a Connecticut casino years ago, casting themselves as childhood friends.

But Martorano says it's a matter of pride. "I can't stop people from putting veal parm on the menu, but it shouldn't be right for someone to just copy what you're doing and say it's his."

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Virgil Starkwell
Virgil Starkwell


What I posted is a mere reflection of what I have heard many times on the street. There is no denying that the food is amazing, but there is also no denying what I said about why that bar was built, and why it is so big.

I don't mind waiting, until I feel like I am getting gouged.

By the way, I got there at 7:30pm, and didn't sit down until just past 10:00pm. At that point, I was so bombed I would have eaten just about anything.

P.S. I don't mind the prices at all.

Eric Barton
Eric Barton

Get there early, Virgil, and you can usually get in with little wait. It's where I usually take out-of-towners, and nobody I've taken has been disappointed, even with those pretty steep prices. Say what you will about the concept or this unfortunate lawsuit, but Steve can cook.

Virgil Starkwell
Virgil Starkwell

@Friend to Both:

Respectfully, the wait at Hard Rock Martaranos is bullshit because it is caused solely by that monstrosity of a bar that was clearly designed to suck the customer dry on booze before they sit down to eat.

It is obviously his business model to do so, because why else would he build a bar that is bigger than his biceps in the middle of his restaurant?

In fact, that center bar is not necessary at all because there is already a bar that is sufficient for waiting at the front of the restaurant. (Or the side, however you define that area) You can fit seating for another 30-50 people in that area, probably more than that.

The bottom line is that in the original location on the beach, Steve always had a legitimate excuse for such a long wait, namely that there truly was limited seating due to the small space. So when I heard he was opening at Hard Rock, I figured that one of the reasons was to increase the number of tables in proportion to the much larger space. But we all know this is not the case. Instead, he has repaid his loyal customers by intentionally limiting the number of dining seats so he can gouge us with a bar bill while we wait unnecessarily.

There is no denying that the food is fantastic, but the wait is ridiculous. So I and many of my friends will take you up on your advice not to eat there anymore.

Friend to Both
Friend to Both

Whats funny to me is how people love to pass judgement without knowing the fact. I actually now both sides very well and its sad to see that two people who were once very close friends now meet in court of laws. Its sad that its gotten to this point but I'm sure has had enough with the copy cats. After all Longo did hire ex cooks and waiters to pretty much duplicate the same exact menu. I've been to both places and Longos was a disappointment. I really expected more. I've known Longo to be very shady in the past but this takes the cake. For the people who don't like to wait don't eat at Steve's. I eat there all the time and don't mind the two hour wait. Theres so much going on the time flys plus the food is worth every minute of it. Lastly I'm sure Longo only wishes he had that kind of wait in his place none the less the next time I'm in Florida I'll be at Martoranos as for Longo thats the last time you will see any of my hard earned money.Jerr you should be ashamed of yourself.

Roy L. Fuchs
Roy L. Fuchs

Martarano is an egotistical asshole, and he can't win this frivolous lawsuit. He'd have better luck sending a few of his "south philly" goombas up there to rough up Longo.

Judge Sirica
Judge Sirica

Longo may regret admitting that it's a unique concept and claiming that he came up with it, in Ft Lauderdale, no less. He may have some technical defenses, but he probably needs them.

Virgil Starkwell
Virgil Starkwell

If I go to Rhode Island, can I sit around with my thumnb up my ass for 2 hours, drink 5 10.00+ drinks while waiting for a table, only to be told by a waiter I have to wait a little longer because a Dolphin's player walk in, finally sit down 2:30 later, and eat while yelling at the top of my lungs to the person next to me, while I give hand signals to my other friends at the table. If I can do that in Rhode Island, I would say the big guy has a case. Hey Steve: The food is great, but WTF is with the unecessary wait, caused primarily by that monstrosity of a bar. What am I, a fanuch? Cut that F'en bar in half and put some more tables in. If I show up at 7:00, I like to eat by 8:30. I'm crazy that way.


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