Way back in 1962, John F. Kennedy was President, Johnny Carson took over hosting duties of The Tonight Show, and a young boy named George Guito came to work at the Columbia Restaurant. 50 years later, George is still working at The Columbia Restaurant, he has never worked anywhere else.
Florida’s Oldest Restaurant, the iconic 107-year-old Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, honored General Manager George Guito for his 50th Anniversary with the 4th and 5th generation family-owned business at their Employee Appreciation Dinner on Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 with a video that paid tribute to his amazing career. The music accompanying the video is “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” performed by Cesar Gonzmart, and can be seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQLkyZ2YRko
It all started when third generation family member Cesar Gonzmart (current 4th generation co-owners Richard and Casey Gonzmart’s father) took a chance on the then 15-year-old George by letting him clean the restaurant. At first Cesar thought George was too young to work, but George begged him to give him a chance. He was paid $35 as a "porter" to mop floors and clean bathrooms six days a week.
George became a busboy before long and worked odd jobs at the restaurant. Cesar returned his loyalty and found a way to reward George and the restaurant. He sent George to butcher school and paid the bills. George became a certified butcher, and began cutting all the meat for the kitchen.
While working in the kitchen, he learned how to buy produce and supplies, and to cook. When the chef retired, he temporarily took on the cooking. Over the years, he has installed dishwashers, wired the computers, fixed the fountain when it flooded and hung the chandelier. He has worked every job in the restaurant except tending bar and performing in the Flamenco dance shows. Today George knows how to cook everything on the award-winning restaurant’s menu. At his home in West Tampa, paella is his signature dish.