A new face behind Salerno’s traditions

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Salerno’s Italian Restaurant owner Aaron Voss.

Salerno’s Italian Restaurant in Highland Village has a tradition of serving its customers authentic cuisine in a welcoming family environment.

Now that Salerno’s has a new owner, Aaron Voss, his new face will be the only change to the restaurant’s traditional menu recipes and staff. In fact, Voss is a longtime area resident and Salerno’s customer himself. He also has been in the food service industry for the past 23 years.

Born in Dallas, he graduated from Forney High School, before majoring in pharmaceutical sciences at Stephen F. Austin State University. He moved back to Mesquite to be with his mother

“I started with Chili’s in Town East Mall, moving up to manager-in-training from 1993-97,” said Voss. “In March 1997, I joined a Lewisville McDonald’s franchise family–as general manager-in-training– and got my own store. Then, over to Coppell from 1998-2001, before transferring to old-town Irving for three-years. It was the first Texas store to hit $3 million in 2004. Then, I was promoted to area director, with three- to six-stores at a time in the Mid-Cities. In 2009, I took over three Lewisville stores–on 407 and I-35E, Highland Village and on FM 3040.”

His wife, Arianne, a 1997 graduate of Marcus High School, grew up only a few blocks from the restaurant and her mother taught at Briarhill Middle School in Highland Village for more than 20 years.

“We’ve always talked about owning our own restaurant,” said Voss. “How much I missed the traditional restaurant setting. For 23 years I worked hard for other families. Now I get to work hard for my own family.”

The couple has four children: Gwyn, 21, who lives in Lancaster, is a hospital technician and has a daughter, Arabella, who turned one-year-old on Feb 4; Robert, 19, a UNT freshman; Gabby, 17, a junior in high school; and, son, Riley, 10, who attends Hawk Elementary in Corinth. The family attends First Baptist Church of Lewisville, where the couple married in 2001.

The initial idea of possibly buying Salerno’s originated when Arianne and some friends were eating lunch at the restaurant and owner Mike Salerno stopped by their table to chat. One topic led to another and Salerno mentioned he’d been thinking of stepping back from the everyday running of things.

Chef Morris Salerno, Jr. and his cousin, Mike Salerno have been mainstays in the southern Denton County restaurant scene for decades.

“It was something we weren’t looking to happen, but it just did,” Salerno said.” It was an opportunity for me to sit back a bit and spend more time with my grandchildren. This was also the first Valentine’s Day Kim [his wife] and I haven’t worked at the restaurant since we opened in 1985; we went to Nashville.”

Voss took over on Feb. 1 and is eager to carry on the Salerno family torch.

“We still have the same chefs and Morris [Salerno, Mike’s cousin and award-winning chef and owner of Bisteca and The Grotto Bar] has volunteered to help me,” said Voss about the kitchen staff. All the familiar servers and staff faces will still greet diners.

Salerno’s was one of the first restaurants to open in Flower Mound and received the very first liquor permit issued by the town in 1985. It had been in the same location on Long Prairie Road until it relocated early last year to the southwest corner of Highland Village Town Center on FM 407– in the space formerly occupied by The Village Grill.

Grandpa Salerno’s wife, Mela, was “a fantastic cook,” and many of her authentic Sicilian recipes are on the restaurant’s menu.

Salerno said his retirement doesn’t mean he’s leaving the business entirely. He’ll still be involved with Salerno’s Catering and plans to make occasional drop-ins to visit longtime customers– and a check of how things are running.

“He’s working hard to keep everything up to our standards and to keep the Salerno name great,” said Salerno of Voss. “I told him I don’t want to ‘step-on his toes’ and he said, ‘you’re always welcome anytime you want to come home.’ It’s a real partnership. I’m excited for him.”

Voss believes the sentiment behind the quote: “The happiness and success of the team is the truest measure of leadership. Lead accordingly.”

As the new leader of the Salerno’s Restaurant team, he is the first to protect the ambiance, recipes and family legacy built during its 35 years serving its customers.

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