In the business world no endeavor is riskier than opening a restaurant. Few make it. Expensive start up, transient staff, fickle customers and changing trends make it a tough go. So when an establishment makes it, you know you’ve got a good thing. Verdicchio’s Deli was one of those establishments. So why did it close last June? My friend Rob Verdicchio owned Verdicchio’s for 15 years. When I spotted his new business, Homewatch North Shore, on line, I had to know how and why he made such a huge change in his life.
If you grew up in West Vancouver in the 1970s and 1980s and didn’t know a member of the Verdicchio family, chances are you were living under a rock. “How many cousins do you have?” I asked. “Lots.” Not only where they a large Italian family but they also owned Peppi’s. At the time it was probably one, if not the only, fine dining restaurant in West Vancouver. On the beach at the foot of 25th Street, it was the quintessential Italian restaurant. Red and white checkered table cloths, Chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling and more spaghetti and meatballs than you can shake a stick at. Oh, and even if you were underage, chances are you could get still get a glass of wine with your dinner. So I heard.
I can’t remember when I first met Rob. I think it was 1981. Rob and I bussed tables at the Ambleside Inn. It was my first job at a high end restaurant and thank god for Rob helping me out or that butter whipper may have gotten the best of me. Both being in the restaurant business on the North Shore, we ran into each other a lot over the years. Many great times. Many late nights at Holidays or Tommy Africa’s. The time Rosemary and I moved all of his furniture out of his basement suite onto his back lawn. That pistachio suit. And of course late nights at Milieu. Good times. So how did he end up owning a successful deli?
Orazio Scaldaferri and his wife Rosana (Rob’s cousin) first opened the deli under the name Scaldaferri’s in Dundarave sometime in the 70’s. Along with another cousin, who came over from Italy, they operated the deli for many years. Rob, at the time, was managing the Beachouse, an upscale restaurant in the building that had housed his families beloved Peppi’s. When an opportunity presented itself in 1998, Rob purchased the deli and changed the name to Verdicchio’s. It took a few years to re-establish the clientele after things had slipped a bit, but from there business took off. Rob was even able to secure the lucrative, but intensive, hot lunch program for numerous West and North Vancouver schools.
But a few years ago things started to change. Four years ago Rob gave up drinking. “It was time to end the Verdicchio curse”. Working in the restaurant business and being Italian can be a death sentence apparently. Additionally, his chef was battling cancer. His kids were getting older, his wife was getting back into her career. It made Rob realize that life is short. Owning a restaurant is a hard go on a day to day basis. Long hours, difficult suppliers and constant upkeep. So at the end of the day, it was time to move on from Verdicchio’s. A tough decision I would imagine. When you put your heart into something, it is never easy to let go.
So now he’s at home (for now) and his wife is working on her career. “The house has never been cleaner, the laundry is done everyday and heaven help anybody who gets in “my” kitchen.” Rob says with a laugh. After a few attempts at getting back into the restaurant management field, he thought maybe he would try a completely different direction. And so Homewatch North Shore was born. Homewatch is a personalized home watch for absentee owners. As any good businessman would do, Rob has done his homework and the market is certainly there for this service. Homeowners who travel or live oversees can leave their property in the hands of a responsible company and know that it will be looked after. Check it out.
The last question I asked Rob was if he had an unlimited supply of cash would he resurrect Peppi’s, the family restaurant? “…I would love to. But an updated version.” How great would that be? I think that as we both head into our fifties, we have the Best Things in Life ahead of us. Although, that pistachio suit was quite spectacular.