Staff, customers are like family

Twin Oaks’ managers retire, but they’ll never say goodbye


After a combined 104 years serving customers, two managers at Twin Oaks Restaurant are finally retiring.

Managers Joe Ferro and Mike Regine worked their last shifts in December before both jetting off with their wives for a well earned trip to Florida. For almost 30 years, the duo has managed Twin Oaks in Cranston as partners, with a legacy spanning 20 years longer than that, and then some. Both Ferro and Regine began their careers in their teens in entry level positions, working alongside both of their fathers, waiters at the 85 year old restaurant.

“My father started working here in 1968 when I was 10,” Regine explained. “Then, when I turned seventeen, eighteen years old, I became a busboy. I worked here, as a busboy for six, seven years. Then I moved up. I was a service bartender, then I was a bartender, then a waiter over here. Everything is like seniority, and you move up the ladder. And then they wanted me to be assistant manager, but always waiting on tables. Then the owner died. And then I became the full time manager.”

Ferro’s story is almost identical. “I started working here when I was 13 years old. Like Mike, my dad worked on the floor. He was a waiter here. And that’s how I got in here, and I never left. This was my only job that I’ve always had. And basically that’s it and I worked my way up. Dishwasher, you know, doing all the kitchen jobs. Then coming out on the floor, busboy, waiter, bartender, manager.”

The two men worked alongside their fathers until their retirement, and continued on working alongside family. Regine’s wife Diane worked in the business office at Twin Oaks until her recent retirement. Ferro’s teenage grandson, Angelo, is employed currently as a busser, until he leaves for college. According to Ferro and Regine, Twin Oaks engenders this type of career and generation spanning loyalty. At time of writing, six Twin Oaks employees have been working there for over 50 years.

Bonds with staff and customers

The two men noted the bonds formed between staff and customers after years and years of patronage. “These customers become our family,” Ferro said. “In good times they come here to celebrate, and they also celebrate sad times. And we’re part of it. That’s gonna be the tough part, I know for myself and I’m sure for Mike to leave that family that we have, that relationship we have with customers that come in here.

“This is our place, this is our home,” Regine added, noting the support they’ve received from the DeAngelus family, who have owned Twin Oaks for four generations since it first opened in the 1930s. “Both the owners have been giving us a hard time for the last month. ‘You’re not leaving, you’re not retiring’ oh yes, well yeah this is our date ‘no you’re not you’re not retiring. They mean it sincerely, because it’s family.”

None of this is to say it’s all been easy. The rigors of piloting an institution like Twin Oaks comes with sacrifices.

“We’ve missed a lot of things,” Regine said. “We’ve missed a lot of family gatherings. A lot of sacrifices. We have to make sure everyone is happy. The place holds a lot of weight. A lot of tradition here.”

That said, the duo has achieved quite a lot over thirty years at the helm. The two are particularly proud of the role they’ve played in shaping the next generation of Twin Oaks staff. At a time when restaurants are getting more and more casual, Regine and Ferro maintained a refined dress code, and a culture of excellence to accompany it.

“Everything kind of falls into place,” Regine said. “We’re just here to steer the ship.”

But sometimes a ship encounters a storm, and the COVID-19 pandemic was among the worst Twin Oaks has faced.

Stormy waters of COVID

“It was the hardest thing we’ve ever done in our lives,” Regine said. “But like we said, we all pulled together…”

“And it came out very successful,” Ferro continued. “We had to close down, so we did take out and we had take out that was around the corner. The lines were unbelievable. Really unbelievable.

“Especially the holidays,” Regine added. “We just came in here and we said okay, this is what we’re gonna do and this is how we gotta do it.”

Ferro interjected again “When we came back, we haven’t missed a day. We’re busy, busy, busy. Everybody’s so busy. It’s unbelievable. And we really haven’t missed a day. We were very fortunate. Some restaurants weren’t.”

Ferro and Regine often complete one another’s sentences like that. Knowing each other all their lives and having been partners for 30 years, it’s only natural. The two are close friends as well as business partners.

The two have seen a lot of change together, yet less than one might expect. They note that the chef at Twin Oaks, Ryan Mancini, who they describe as “fantastic” is only the fourth the restaurant has had in almost 90 years of business. They’ve seen the menu slowly, but steadily expand as new chefs come, and the restaurant caters to changing tastes.

In the same vein as the menu, the staff has also expanded its boundaries. Regine notes that “Years ago, it was mostly you didn’t work here unless your father worked here. Father, son, uncles, it was all connected.”

That time spent with their fathers is what they say they remember the most fondly and miss the most from their decades at Twin Oaks.

“I think Mike would say the same thing, working here with our Dads, and them telling us how to become better and how to work. I remember even my father, when he left for Florida and I took over as manager, he’d still tell me what to do. Mike’s father was the same way he would guide him. They were blood here and they were so happy to see their children working here.

Ferro remembers “My Father used to come in and have a beer with us. We would sit down and talk about the old times… Just sitting down and bringing up the old memories.”

All the same, the managers are looking forward to a chance to rest. Each of them have their own plans for what they’ll do with the time.

“I’ve got a lot of hobbies,” Ferro says. “I have a lot of hobbies myself. Sure. I like working on the yard, the garden. I’ve got a pool. I think of grandkids coming over. I make my own wine. So I’m busy.”

“I play softball,” Regine says, but that’s not what he looks forward to most. “I think the biggest to me is, I can be wherever I want to be at any time of the day. I don’t have to be here, right? I don’t have to rush around to get something done. So I can be here at a certain time. You know what I mean? My time is my own.”

Not to say they won’t be back, but now they’ll be at sitting at the table rather than standing over it. When asked what they’ll be ordering, Regine chose a martini and Ferro a glass of wine. But choosing what to eat presented more of a challenge.

“It’s almost like a loaded question because we know the food so well,” Regine said. “You know what I mean? We know it’s ALL good.”

When asked why they chose this moment to retire, they said it was really to make sure the restaurant, and their replacement Jay Fitzgerald, were ready for their departure.

“He and I could have left six months ago, but we’re gonna stay here because the place needs us, at least we think it needs us,” Regine explained about the decision. “And Jay’s our friend, and we want to make sure he’s okay.”

“Now he is,” he continued. “He’s a crackerjack now.”

Though they’re retiring, they say they’ll always be around to support the restaurant. They say after all they’ve been through at the restaurant, the bonds they’ve made, and all the DeAngelus family have done for them, it’s the least they can do.

“We want to see it go another 90 years,” Ferro said. “We’re pretty sure we’re going to be around for the hundredth year. This is part of us.”


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