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Ross Morris, owner of Piatto, has opened four restaurants and said his goal is to give people authentic food experiences.

CARLISLE — While making his way home after graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania Ross Morris made a stop in Carlisle. He never left.

That was about 25 years ago. Since then, Morris said he has opened four restaurants and has four partners in those businesses — Ryan and Helena Twigg and Bob and Sue Otway. They now have 70 employees between the four spots and their goal is to give the people more authentic food experiences, Morris said.

“I fell in love with the town, made it home, raised a family and started a business 25 years ago,” he said. “The theme with all four is traditional, authentic experiences. So my partners and I share the vision that we want Carlisle to be this special destination and we want people to enjoy this town as we do.”

Morris said his first restaurant, A La Tarte, was the first espresso bar in Carlisle and was located where Helena’s Chocolate Cafe and Creperie is now on West High Street. After about 10 years, A La Tarte closed and Morris opened Piatto. Morris also owns Andalusia and Cafe Bruges, each located in Carlisle and each featuring different cuisine for people to try. And as they give people an opportunity to try different foods, Morris said they also work to help the people who may be unable to afford to feed themselves or their families.

“From day one, we have tried to give back to the community, as much as we possibly can,” he said. “Most of the fundraisers that we’re involved with have to do with feeding people — food banks in Harrisburg and Carlisle. It’s kind of funny, here we are, people come in the front door and pay us to feed them and then there are a lot of people that can’t afford to eat, so we feed them too, kind of like in a roundabout way.”

Morris has cooked professionally since he was 16 years old. He double-majored in psychology and sociology at IUP, but food has always been something he enjoyed. Before opening the restaurants, Morris said he played guitar in a few bands. But with the birth of his daughter, Morris said he felt that he needed to find a more steady way to make a living.

“I just could not find a place where I fit in,” he said. “And I remembered having a lot of fun cooking. ... (The birth of my daughter) just kind of kicked me in the pants and made me realize, OK, I’ve got to do something here.”

Morris said when he opens a new restaurant his goal is for the place to be authentic, so he and his partners travel to the countries that feature the cuisine they want to replicate. He said sometimes people get thrown off by how the Italian food at Piatto tastes because it’s not like the Olive Garden, but that people have mostly enjoyed the food once they get used to the difference.

Morris said he has enjoyed both of his jobs and he hopes to make people happy when they eat at any of his restaurants. He said he loves Carlisle because it is a unique place with people from all over living in the borough.

“You’d never know that you’re in a town of 19,000 people,” Morris said. “The beauty of Carlisle really lies in its demographic ... over half the people are not from here, and I’ve never experienced a town like that anywhere. And I travel, and I look for it — Carlisle is special like that, it really is.”

Email Samantha Madison at smadison@cumberlink.com or follow her on Twitter @SentinelMadison

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