From Our Family, To Yours
Since Mambo Italiano Café opened its doors to Bellingham, quality food and service has been our passion. Creating a quality dining experience for our guests is something we continually strive for. We believe in house-made, handcrafted meals from scratch, with only the best quality ingredients possible. We take pride in our work and to us, Mambo is much more than a restaurant, it's an artform. From our family to yours, welcome to Mambo.
Where It All Began
In March of 2001, Sam and Deb Tino opened the doors of Mambo Italiano for the first time. Customers immediately enjoyed their original approach to Italian cuisine and it would become one of the core establishments in the historic Fairhaven District.
Sam Tino is a second generation restaurateur and Italian who grew up working at Tino’s--his family’s Italian restaurant in Eugene, Oregon. Started in 1950 by Samuel Tino Sr., a first generation Italian immigrant from Calabria, Italy, Tino’s was Eugene’s first pizza delivery restaurant. Growing up in the apartment above the restaurant, Sam spent most of his time helping his mother and father in every way possible, from baking pizzas to hand rolling meatballs. The Eugene Tino’s was eventually sold after the passing of Samuel Tino Sr., and Sam Jr. moved further North to continue what would become a lifelong career in the restaurant business. It was during his time spent managing Black Angus in Seattle that Sam met his future wife, Deb.
Deb also came from a background in the restaurant industry. When she was a girl, her family opened a classic drive-in style restaurant in Northern Minnesota, serving a full from-scratch menu which included handmade pies and burgers all crafted from locally sourced ingredients. Deb eventually moved to Duluth, Minnesota, where she familiarized herself with a more corporate-based restaurant business before moving up to Seattle to fill a general management role at Black Angus.
Their combined passion for working with food eventually led Sam and Deb to Sudden Valley, Washington, where they raised their two sons and started their own Tino’s Restaurant in the tradition of Sam’s Italian roots. Several years later Sam and Deb sold Tino’s so that Sam could pursue a career in real estate, and Deb went off to work as a manager for multiple restaurants at Semiahmoo. However, they both quickly realized they were happiest running their own restaurant, and together with friends and their two sons Cameron and Dominic Tino, they pooled their resources and opened Mambo Italiano in 2001.
Mambo has been a hit from the time its doors opened. The combination of backgrounds from front and back of house made it a smashing success. During its 22 year history Cam and Dom have continued to remain present and involved with the restaurant, spending time both on the floor and in the kitchen with the staff. Cam and Dom have put years of love and care into keeping Mambo the Fairhaven staple that it is.
While the last several years of Mambo’s history have been challenging between the passing of Deb Tino and Covid-19, Mambo has been lucky to be in the hands of not just Cam and Dom, but Dom’s partner Safiyyah Chelson as well. Cam, Dom, and Safi have been the driving force behind Mambo’s enduring success in the Fairhaven community.
Mambo is more than just a restaurant: it is a place of community, rich with history and cultivated by family and friendships. Since the passing of Deb Tino, Dom and Safi have taken the reins at Mambo, continuing to produce quality food and service with an incredible amount of heart.
Having worked nearly all positions at the restaurant, Cam has a wealth of Mambo knowledge and expertise, and is well known for always giving 110% percent. Safi is a force in all aspects of the restaurant: on the floor, behind the bar, and behind the scenes, and has brought immense talent and dedication to Mambo.
Driven by passion to produce authentic Italian meals and to follow in his parents’ legacy, Dom has continued to shoulder Mambo humbly, and with the utmost grace and tenacity. Mambo truly would not exist without Dom’s kindness, honesty, and fierce commitment. More than anything, it is Cam, Dom, and Safi’s combined commitment to Mambo that has allowed the restaurant to flourish. Each has poured an incredible amount of love into the restaurant and each is a cornerstone of its success.
If you’ve been to Mambo before, thank you for helping make us a core part of the Whatcom County Community. If you haven’t visited us, we hope you get the chance to stop by and experience some of our delicious Italian food and friendly service for yourselves.