Restaurant duo is Chamber Person of Year

It’s an American dream come true. Mario Lopez, 42, came to the United States when he was a 20-year-old to take a job washing dishes in a restaurant.

Today, he and his wife, Cristina Ramirez, both natives of Ecuador, have owned Bianco Rosso restaurant for the last six years, and also own Craft 14 Kitchen and Bar. The Wilton Chamber of Commerce named them as Business Person of the Year Sept. 27 during its annual meeting at the Rolling Hills Country Club.

“My wife is the designer. She designed the place,” said Lopez, 42, who lives in Fairfield with his wife and their young daughter, Luciana.

He said he never dreamed he would be honored by the Chamber of Commerce for owning a fine restaurant. His restaurants specialize in Italian and American dishes.

“This is quite an honor,” Lopez said.

The couple met at Norwalk Community College in 1999, where they studied to improve their English.

“When asked if it was love at first sight, their response is a sheepish grin,” joked Debra Hanson, executive director of the Chamber.

The Business Person of the Year Award has a history of honoring those in the community who have made significant and important contributions to our town, Hanson said.

“It is in this tradition that we award this evening’s recipient. When we asked what the secret to their success was, the answer was really quite simple; hard work, team spirit, and kindness,” Hanson said.

“This duo epitomizes these virtues, and they are the personification of partnership.”

Six years ago, they decided to establish a new business in Wilton, and “what a great decision that turned out to be for our community,” Hanson said, referring to the Bianco Rosso Rosso Wine Bar and Restaurant.

“They have enhanced the Center landscape, and an ebullient atmosphere surrounds their businesses. They have embraced our town: they are involved and devoted, and their contributions embody the spirit that makes Wilton so special.”

Last year, they expanded their portfolio, with a new venue whose name is a tribute to their daughter’s birthday, Craft 14 Kitchen and Bar.

“For all the difference they have made, for their generous philanthropy, and for all they do for our community, it is with great pleasure that we award this year’s Business Person of the Year to Mario Lopez and Cristina Ramirez,” Hanson said.