Joyce Karam grew up, quite literally, in the restaurant business. Her parents Joe and Aline Karam opened Opa on Federal Hill in 2003 when she was just 11. “I have so many memories of being at Opa, watching my mom as the queen of the front of the house and my dad as the king of the back of the house,” she says. “They are the hardest working people I know. I have learned so much from them.”
Today four family members own and manage Opa and Trattoria Del Mare, a second restaurant on the Hill that opened last summer. “My heart will always be at Opa,” says Aline, who spends most of her time at the Middle Eastern restaurant while Joyce mostly runs the newer restaurant, a sophisticated bar and grille with Mediterranean flair. “My dream was to own a restaurant by age 25,” says Joyce, who’s 24. “I’m so fortunate to have learned the business from my parents, the best of the best in the restaurant industry.” Her brother Francois, an architect by trade, also helps out at both restaurants.
A love of cooking and hospitality runs deep in the family. “My father’s mother, my grandmother, makes the best food in the world. She taught my dad how to cook in an authentic Lebanese way,” Joyce says. “My father’s side is all about the food, while my mom is all about hosting and running a business.” Joyce got a taste for the industry at early age herself, starting to cook at age 14. When her dad had to head to Lebanon, his native country, for a family emergency two years later, Joyce jumped right in and helped Aline run the business. “That’s what we do. We will always have each other’s backs,” Joyce says. “The opportunity at such a young age really shaped her,” Aline adds.
With its exposed brick walls and passionate red lights, Opa is known for its intimate dining experiences. Grilled kabobs, pasta, fresh salads and seafood take a leading role on the menu. “Everything is absolutely amazing, and of course fresh made to order,” says Aline. Live entertainment is offered every Wednesday and Sunday night, with a belly dancer on Saturday nights.
Trattoria Del Mare, one of the newest additions to Federal Hill, offers a wide variety of cuisine, including a raw bar, thin crust pizza and seafood. During the summer months, the alfresco patio is a best-kept secret in the city. “I think it’s the best outdoor seating in Providence. It’s really a hidden gem,” Joyce says.
With two generations running two restaurants, this mother-daughter team proves that you can mix business with pleasure. “Working alongside my mother is so rewarding,” Joyce says. “I really have the best of both worlds.”
Opa: 230 Atwells Avenue, Providence • 401-351-8282 • www.opaprovidence.com
Trattoria Del Mare: 145 Spruce Street, Providence • 401-273-7070 • www.trattoriadelmare.com