Food is about kindness, the kindness of giving something good to someone we care about. Few are fortunate enough to learn this basic rule in the tiny kitchen of their family’s restaurant, but that’s precisely Iris’ story.

Roman-born and bred, “Nonna Iris” started helping her own mother and grandmother with their business at the age of 13. Now 93 years old, she actively runs five successful restaurants in Rome, plus three in Milan and one in Bologna. She has no intentions of slowing down, either. Nonna Iris is eager to share her favorite Roman delicacies not just with Italians but with the rest of the world: a great undertaking for a great achiever.

The restaurant Nonna Iris opened in Miami last year – “Osteria da Fortunata” – bears her own grandmother’s name. It was Iris herself who came, saw, and conquered the Sunshine State with her homemade desserts and pasta made right in front of her guests. Only after she had personally taken care of every detail did Iris feel that she could go back to her beloved Rome, where she is affectionately known as the “Carbonara Queen.”

What is the secret behind her success? Nonna Iris says it’s all about that rule of kindness – simply giving people good food to eat and making sure to put family first. Notwithstanding the growth of her restaurants, all of them are owned and managed by Iris’ extended family of 40 people, providing work for another 480.

Layers of time shape the life of this unique family business, whose origin can be tracked back to Iris’ grandmother in the 1920s. Classic recipes like carbonara and amatriciana are the driving forces behind this century of uninterrupted pasta making, still coveted, still a taste of the Rome of Old.

But this begs the question – why the big move to Florida for people so strongly rooted in their Roman turf? Simply put, Iris felt a moral obligation to repay people in some way for their support. Tourists visiting the Eternal City – especially from the U.S. – would often end up in one of the original “Osteria da Fortunata” restaurants in Italy, get to know her, and love her. At that point, the idea of bringing a piece of their experience directly to them, for them to enjoy on their side of the ocean, came naturally. In the end, isn’t that also part of that “cycle of kindness” that binds people together while they’re gathered around a table?

In Miami, Nonna Iris could even spot familiar faces she had already seen in her Roman restaurants. To all who would inquire about the secret to her long life, she would invariably answer: “How to live like me? Stay true to your roots!”

Osteria da Fortunata
607 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach 33139 Florida