The Chateau Restaurants: A Family Tradition of Quality

Many people believe the history of The Chateau began in 1933 when the Nocera family opened their first restaurant in Waltham. But if the truth be told, the origins of the company can be traced back to 1912, when Joseph and Mary Nocera came to the United States from Sicily.  The Noceras arrived in Massachusetts with little more than a dream; a dream of sharing their passion for Italian food with those around them. So when they opened The Chateau at 195 School Street in Waltham, it was a modest affair; 13 bar stools and four booths. But the restaurant quickly developed a reputation among its patrons for offering authentic Italian food.

In the 1950s, the next generation began to make its mark in the family business. Brother Lou together with his sister Marianne and her husband Scott Skerry eventually took over for their parents, continuing to offer the same quality menu at reasonable prices. Then, in 1976, the pair decided to embark on a major expansion, more than doubling the 350 seat Waltham restaurant to 800 seats.

At the same time, the Noceras were developing a reputation within the restaurant industry for valuing their employees. The Noceras provided 401(k) plans at a time when few businesses, and virtually no restaurants, were offering such arrangements. Today, most of the company's employees have a long history with the company. It is not unusual to meet employees who have spent their entire professional careers working with the Noceras.

This sense of loyalty helped provide the foundation from which the third generation of Noceras would grow their family business. In 1978, Joe, Jim, John, Jeff, Jerry, Jason and Linda began to come on board. Their father insisted that they experience the business the same way he had: by doing all the jobs associated with the restaurant.

Thus, the brothers and their sister spent many hours bussing tables, working as line cooks, serving as bartenders, and learning the business from the inside out.  With a growing roster of talent and family members, Lou decided to open Nocera's Restaurant in Stoughton in 1986. The response was phenomenal, and customers began to clamor for the family to expand the scope of their operations to include even more communities. But the Noceras adhered to a careful plan for steady growth.

By 1998, the table was set for significant expansion. The family opened Chateau Norwood, Chateau Andover and Chateau Norton in short order.  "The time was right;" Chateau president Joe Nocera says. "We have seven family members, so we needed to grow, and our customer kept asking, 'When are you going to open in another town? When are you going to grow?'"

As they grew, the Noceras remained focused on providing both quality food and the facilities that would meet the needs of their customers. Thus, while many national chains were building smaller fast food restaurants, the Noceras were constructing larger family restaurants that would also provide space to host small and large functions. In addition, the restaurants feature large kitchens that are able to accommodate growing customer demand for take out and delivery services.

Customers have responded favorably to the family's efforts, now with the eight restaurants enjoying steady success. Joe says the company has succeeded primarily because of the employees, who have become part of the ever growing extended Nocera family. In addition, the company has stayed on the cutting edge of technology as part of its continuing commitment to meet the needs of its ever-expanding customer base.

As the fourth generation of the Nocera family begins to make its own inroads into the family business, they know that they will face future challenges with a foundation that has been built on solid traditions.
"While they are young, they are working in different areas of the restaurant, and also going out to get experience with other restaurants. Joe says. "They're young, but they're learning."

"A lot of the people who come to the Chateau expect to have the core menu items on the menu and have them prepared the same way," he says. "That is one of the key ingredients; we do that without fail. You do have to add new items based on people's eating habits, but you must keep the core items the same. When they come, they expect it to taste the same and be the same. That's the big challenge. You have to know what distinguishes you, and that's what distinguishes us."