It all started in 1965 when Erminia Lattanzi left Italy to come to Brooklyn, New York with her 5 children, Giuseppe, Stella, Vittorio, Maurizio, and Paolo. Looking for new opportunity, Erminia went to work in a factory alongside her son, Paolo, who shared her love of the kitchen. They scoured local markets for ingredients comparable to what they had in Rome but often had to improvise due to high costs and scarce availability of quality meats, cheeses, and spices. Erminia developed a knack for eggplant, which she called "steak without the bone," and Paolo began to make his own mozzarella because he didn't like what local delis had to offer.
What was once a personal passion turned into professional ambition in 1978, when the Lattanzi family opened a Roman Italian Cucina in the Upper East Side, named Trastavere (later called Tevere). Funded by personal loans collected across the family, the business quickly grew, as word spread about the authentic Italian cuisine that was oft difficult to find elsewhere (not to mention the ingenious eggplant dishes and fine homemade mozzarella).
By the early 1980s, the family had opened 4 more restaurants, splitting operating duties across each of the children, while Paolo remained Executive Chef of them all. In the spring of 1984, Lattanzi was opened at 361 West 46th Street, but not before a tremendous amount of work and effort to get the building up to standard. Though the block was deemed Restaurant Row ("16 of the best restaurants collected in such a short strip of land") by Mayor John Lindsay in 1973, the neighborhood itself was far from "best." Plagued by vacant buildings and recovering from an era of gang domination, Hell's Kitchen was in the amidst of a slow rebuilding that wouldn't see its full splendor until the early 2000s.
The area might not have been ideal in 1984, but the promise of authentic cuisine and good theatre kept the crowds coming. Over the years, the neighborhood has developed into a cultural and culinary epicenter, and Lattanzi has grown from a one-room Italian cucina into a multi-story ristorante. Though the building has undergone extensive renovation, most has remained largely the same, from the menu to the staff to the Executive Chef, Paolo Lattanzi.