When customers walk into Trattoria Roma, their gaze may fall on the photo of the Italian eatery's founder, Richard DiPaolo, and his wife, Josephine, which hangs behind the Sinatra Bar.

When customers walk into Trattoria Roma, their gaze may fall on the photo of the Italian eatery's founder, Richard DiPaolo, and his wife, Josephine, which hangs behind the Sinatra Bar.

"He's kind of watching over us," said Shawn Mason, who co-owns the restaurant at 1447 Grandview Ave. with chef Matt Prokopchak.

"Matt and I are pretty young as restaurant owners. We strive to continue the tradition of quality food and service and treating the employees right that he started."

Mason knows about the values DiPaolo lived by.

He started working as a busser at the restaurant 23 years ago, while he was in high school. His father was general manager. Mason later became general manager after his father left to open the Finer Diner in Pickerington.

When the DiPaolo family decided to sell Trattoria Roma a decade ago, they opted to keep it "in the family," although they had other offers, Mason said.

"This is the only restaurant I've ever worked at," he said. "I have a special connection to this restaurant and so it meant so much to be able to become owner."

Prokopchak started working at Trattoria while completing the culinary apprenticeship program at Columbus State Community College.

"I grew up in the Cleveland area and I always was interested in being a chef," Prokopchak said. "It's all I really wanted to do."

DiPaolo opened Trattoria Roma in June 1990 on Morse Road. He moved the restaurant to Grandview Avenue 10 years later.

"Grandview Avenue has changed a lot since then, but even then it was known as a restaurant row," Mason said. "It's a perfect location for us."

Many customers have been coming to the restaurant regularly since it moved to the Grandview area, he said.

"We know them and they know us," he said. "I think our customers appreciate that we use fresh, quality ingredients. It's what we've been known for these 25 years."

"The most-satisfying part of being in the restaurant business is when you know people have enjoyed your food," Prokopchak said. "And you'll know right away whether you've made them happy or not. Knowing most people leave here happy, that's a good feeling.

Next week, the restaurant will offer a revamped menu as it prepares to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

"After 25 years, you don't want to become complacent," Mason said.

The menu will be streamlined while offering a new create-your-own-pasta option, Prokopchak said.

A grand-reopening celebration is planned for June to mark the actual 25th anniversary, Mason said.