The Story of the Small Steak House
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Steven J. Pallone
Charlie Roman, owner of Daniella’s Steak House, was raised in the restaurant business. In 1960, his parents founded Roman’s Tavern, the small, working-class tavern that eventually grew into Daniella’s, the small and intimate steakhouse that’s become a Syracuse staple.
When he was younger, Charlie washed floors, cleaned dishes and tended bar at his parents’ restaurant in downtown Syracuse’s Franklin Square.
“I grew up with the business,” the restaurateur said.
Though Charlie eventually got a full-time job working at Crucible, he always found time to help the family business.
“It was much more enjoyable than working the 9-to-5,” he said. “My nighttime work — even though it was full-time work — was just much more relaxing.”
When his mother retired from the business, Charlie took over full time at Roman’s.
In the 1990s, he decided to add a new element to the tavern — the concept that would eventually become the steakhouse. They aimed to transition from bar business to include restaurant business, as well.
Daniella’s began to evolve at the original location for about two years, and then moved to its current location at Best Western’s The Inn at the Fairgrounds at 670 State Fair Blvd. in Syracuse, near the New York State Fairgrounds.
In the early 2000s, a friend of Charlie’s was opening the hotel and asked Charlie if he’d consider opening a restaurant there. At the time, Charlie was running both the downtown restaurant and another eatery in the Thousand Islands. A location by the fairgrounds just wasn’t feasible.
But about a year and a half later, his friend approached him again about opening a restaurant. The timing was better and Daniella’s opened in The Inn at the Fairgrounds about 14 years ago.
The space was small, but they used that to their advantage, creating an intimate setting. Charlie knew it would be in their best interest to pick a specialty, too. They decided on steak.
“With so many places to eat and dine in the area and in Syracuse, we wanted to pick our little niche,” he said.
In the years since the move out of downtown, the menu has evolved slightly, with its core elements remaining the same. The team at Daniella’s strives to bring in the best products and source as locally as possible. Much of their produce comes from Syracuse Banana or the Central New York Regional Market. They source many of their baked goods from New York Bakery and The Cookie Connection, and meat from Ascioti’s Market.
“We’re trying to stay in tune with the current trends, but at the same time, not changing what we are, which is truly a traditional steakhouse with a little bit of a twist,” Charlie said.
The location by the fairgrounds helps keep business steady throughout the year. Daniella’s even has a location on the grounds that’s open during the Great New York State Fair and the Syracuse Nationals. The added exposure from the fair brings an uptick in business, too, Charlie said.
“The people who stay at the hotel, they’re very surprised when they come down and find a restaurant of our caliber inside a hotel,” Charlie said, adding that since Daniella’s is not corporately run, they have fewer stipulations than a chain hotel-based restaurant might.
Even with the fair and hotel business, they do have a fair number of regular guests from the area. There’s even one diner who joins them for dinner most evenings every week.
“It’s a feel-good for us,” Charlie said with a smile. SWM
Daniella’s is located at 670 State Fair Blvd. in Syracuse. The restaurant is open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday; 4:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday; 4:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Reservations are recommended. For more information, visit daniellassteakhouse.com.