Photos courtesy of Morano Landscape
Valerio Morano Sagliocco talks about growing his family’s landscape-and-garden-design business over the past 16 years and his foray into the restaurant world.
Purchase resident Valerio Morano Sagliocco, 38, president of the Morano Group, grew up immersed in his family’s Mamaroneck-based landscape-and-garden-design business, established by his grandfather in 1952. On the weekends and every summer, Sagliocco would work beside his grandfather and father, but he was convinced he would head to Wall Street after college. “At the time, my family business was small — four trucks and a dozen workers. It really wasn’t something that was attractive to me,” he says.
Sagliocco went to Fordham University for finance and business management. In his last year of school, he received an internship at a brokerage firm. As it turned out, he disliked the job and dreamed of going back and growing the family business.
“My grandfather passed away shortly before I went to college,” says Sagliocco. “I was the eldest of only three grandchildren, and I decided I wanted to continue his legacy. I felt that landscaping was an undervalued profession. There wasn’t much competition, and I thought there was a lot of room to grow in that sector.”
After ending his stint in finance, in 2006, Sagliocco decided to rejoin the family business. He took horticulture and landscape-design courses while working full-time. According to Sagliocco, “It’s been consistent growth ever since. Presently, Morano Landscape Garden Design [a division of the Morano Group] owns dozens of trucks and machinery and is made up of over 100 employees.”
The first thing Sagliocco did was expand the company’s services to encompass everything from design and implementation to maintenance and masonry. The firm also offers interior plantscapes, organic tree and shrub care, plant and lawn healthcare, mature-tree installation, and holiday decor. “We were able to do more for each client, which resulted in a direct increase in revenues,” he says.
The Morano Group grew vertically, as well, by acquiring some of their suppliers and vendors (including Green Lawn Garden Center, now Ridgeway Garden Center in White Plains, 10 years ago). “Ridgeway houses a wide variety of shrubs and trees and caters mostly to wholesale clients, selling to other landscapers and contractors out there,” Sagliocco says.
In 2016, Morano purchased Redwood Nursery, now Weaver Gardens, a nursery-and-garden center located in the heart of Larchmont. “The business caters more to the retail client, selling indoor plants, native species, wetland plantings, and pollinators, as well as a wide variety of perennials and annuals. It also sells vegetables, herbs, hanging baskets, and much more,” he says.
While Sagliocco oversees the entire portfolio of Morano Group enterprises, his father, Domenico “Mimmo” Sagliocco, is still involved in every aspect of the landscape business. Keeping it in the family, Sagliocco’s brother, Andrea Morano Sagliocco, is the co-owner of Ridgeway Garden Center and Weaver Gardens. His mother is also involved, as an advisor; aunts, uncles, and a younger cousin are in the business as well.
Here in Westchester, recent projects have included a 25-acre Bedford estate where Sagliocco created a secret garden with densely branched Carpinus hedges and native plantings such as red bud trees with glorious rosy pink flowers. There is also a 15-acre meadow that the landscaper filled with a myriad of colorful wildflowers.
The Morano Group also has many commercial clients, including the St. Regis Residences, a 55+ community in Rye with six different buildings on seven landscaped acres. “We essentially did everything on the exterior of the building, including paving, terraces, driveways, irrigation, and landscape lighting,” Sagliocco shares. Plantings included rain gardens with inkberry shrubs, native grasses, and red twig dogwoods. (Rain gardens filter out pollutants in runoff and provide food and shelter for butterflies, songbirds, and other wildlife.)
Additional commissions have included a rooftop garden for Brookfield Commons, an affordable-housing high-rise in White Plains, and the Bedford Post Inn, which is set on a beautiful and historic property co-owned by Richard Gere.
Sagliocco has expanded the Morano Group’s territory by opening new offices, one on Manhattan’s Park Avenue South in 2019 and another in West Palm Beach this year. “We want to fill a void and take advantage of opportunities in growth areas where we have clients and associates,” says Sagliocco. There are plans to open additional offices in the Hamptons and Los Angeles within the next two years.
Branching out in another direction, Sagliocco opened up Lago Ristorante in the Silver Lake section of West Harrison in 2015. The restaurant’s rustic Neapolitan cuisine celebrates his family’s Southern Italian roots with the finest and freshest ingredients. “I wanted to showcase my family’s food from where we come from in Italy for the community here in Westchester,” says Sagliocco.
“The secondary leg of the restaurant is the tagline ‘Gardeners First,’” Sagliocco says, “because we are essentially gardeners who decided to open a restaurant. We utilize a large garden I planted behind my home in Purchase and harvest whatever we can during the season, whether it be our zucchinis, tomatoes, or basil. The idea is to be garden-to-table,” he says.
“The most gratifying part is when you’re done with a project, you can sit back and absorb it and know that you’ve done something good.”
Sagliocco’s second restaurant, Café La Fondita, was a taqueria that opened in 2018 in Mamaroneck but had to close last year following massive flooding from Hurricane Ida. He is now using the space as a masonry yard, enabling him to supply his own stone for his company’s projects.
Sagliocco’s most recent project is Oliveto Morano, extra virgin olive oil made from some of the 2,500 olive trees growing on the family’s 30 acres of ancestral farmland in Southern Italy’s Calabria region. The olive oil, whose production was slowed down by complications due to the pandemic, is now being served at Lago Ristorante. It will be available for purchase this summer at the restaurant and online at olivetomorano.com.
When asked what he loves about his job, Sagliocco says: “It’s the ability to transform something that doesn’t look beautiful into something that’s gorgeous. The most gratifying part is when you’re done with a project, you can sit back and absorb it and know that you’ve done something good, whether it be in terms of beauty or in terms of helping the environment and the planet. If we’re lucky, we do both on the same project.”