In 1962, Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant made its debut in Lady Lake under the ownership of John and Columba Mattiucci of Abruzzi, Italy. The restaurant was eventually passed down to their children, and today, is owed by their granddaughter, Elainna Tucker, and her husband, Ricky.

“My grandparents immigrated here after World War II and opened a string of restaurants in Central Florida,” Elainna said. “This one is the only restaurant to stay with immediate family. I grew up here with my dad running things and we took over in 2005 because I wanted to keep it in the family.”

Elainna and Ricky were high school sweethearts at Leesburg High School, and together they learned the in and outs of the family business. Most of the menu items are original family recipes.

Every morning, Elainna and Ricky prep by making fresh-baked Italian bread, pasta noodles, sauces and deserts. Because they are only open for dinner, they concentrate on a refined, authentic menu.

The spaghetti al la bruzzi is the house special, and it features baked spaghetti with meat sauce, mushrooms and three cheeses. Other pastas include: lasagna, manicotti, mushroom ravioli and linguinni with clams. Dinners come with soup or salad and fresh bread.

Some of their Italian specials include veal parmigiana, Delmonico steak and chicken a la cacciattori. They also offer thin-crust pizza and calzones.

“We absolutely love the lasagna and fresh bread,” Sue Greenwood and Kathy Walden said. “The veal parmigiana is also a favorite. The service is always great and we often get a bottle of sauce to take home. It’s delicious.”

Elainna makes the desserts daily, which include: carrot cake, German chocolate cake, cheesecake and cupcakes.

After becoming gluten intolerant five years ago, she adapted most of the menu to offer gluten-free options, including the desserts.

“Being Italian and gluten-free is not an easy thing to do,” Elainna said. “But I’ve worked really hard at making our menu available for those who can’t have gluten like me. This isn’t the dense, tasteless bread either. A lot of the items you can’t even tell the difference.”

The menu features a variety of red, white and blush wines, including the house wine Impero collection, which originates from a boutique winery in Abruzzi, Italy — just as her grandparents.

Starting in November, Mom and Dad's Italian Restaurant, 304 S. U.S. Highway 441 in Lady Lake, will be open from 4 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays. Call 352-753-2722 for information.