Michael Juliano credits the success of his restaurant to faithful customers who come in day after day, grab a sandwich and a beer, watch a ball game and bring their family for dinner.
"I have my repeat customers to thank for being in business 30 years. They have been so loyal and so great to me. Without them, we wouldn't be here," Juliano said.
The restaurant-tavern hospitality business is in the Juliano blood. Juliano's father owned Townhouse Tavern in Northeast Philadelphia for many years, and his brother Mark runs the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, PA.
Michael Juliano graduated from the Montgomery County School of Hotel and Restaurant Management and worked in the hospitality industry working for Hilton, Holiday Inn and eventually opening Resorts casino in Atlantic City.
His plan to work in the casino industry was interrupted by his father, who asked him to lunch one day in 1981. "My dad took me to lunch at the Ocean Heights Inn, as this place was known at the time, and told me he wanted to buy the place. "Halfway through the meal, I found him out back of the place negotiating a price
with the owner," Juliano recalled.
In 1990, Juliano change the name of the Ocean Heights Inn to Juliano's Italian Restaurant and changed the menu to high-end Italian food.
"We found out that this was not the right area for that type of restaurant. People kept coming in looking to sit at the bar and have a sandwich. We only had a 12-seat bar, so in 1998 we remodeled and expanded the bar area," Juliano said.
He also expanded the menu, adding appetizers and things like sandwiches and stromboli that could be served at the bar. Now, under Chef Rafael, the menu has changed again. Not dramatically, said Juliano, but more to the customer's tastes. "We kept track of items that sold well as well as specials that were really popular, and made them part of the menu," Juliano explained.
New items on the menu include more salads and some "south of the border" items like quesadillas and fajitas.
Juliano said the key to great food is fresh ingredients and freshness is apparent at Juliano's.
Only certified Angus beef is used, and steaks are hand cut and then stored without a trip to the freezer. Seafood served at the restaurant comes from local purveyor Randall's Seafood and is never frozen. Wings are fresh, never frozen.
Juliano said he is a bit of a perfectionist, and that is why he spends 12 to 15 hours per day the restaurant. "It is a grueling job. You can't like this business; you have to love it. It is my second wife," Juliano said with a laugh.
He said his "first" wife Melissa, and his family have made the long hours easier.
"You have to have an understanding family and a great staff to be able to do this. I have both. My wife and I have been married 30 years. I just had a bartender, Jim McLaughlin, retire after 25 years, and other staff members have been here 15-20 years. It's like a second family," said Juliano.