Award-winning restaurateurs Paul Grunberg, Mark Perrier and Craig Stanghetta are on the verge of opening Pepino’s Spaghetti House – the spiritual successor to the legendary neighbourhood favourite, Nick’s Spaghetti House – at 631 Commercial Drive. I was invited in over the weekend for a look in the midst of staff training.
We broke the news about Pepino’s in the middle of April, just as construction was getting going on the highly anticipated new restaurant. Here’s an series of excerpts for a refresher:
Dubbed Pepino’s Spaghetti House, the 66 seater will be a thematic departure from their celebrated Savio Volpe restaurant in the Fraserhood, striking a balance between its exacting protocols, authentic preparations, and high-end design sensibilities and the casual, approachable, old school Italian-American/Canadian style that made Nick’s such a memorable fixture for over 60 years. […]
Pepino’s Spaghetti House isn’t setting out to be the second coming of Nick’s, that much is clear. But it’s not a massive departure from it either. The Italian-American/Canadian food concept is staying the same, but the menu will be radically different with a more discerning approach the ingredients. Diners, co-owner Mark Perrier told me, can expect things like Chop and Caesar salads, Calamari Fritti, Zitti with Sausage, Spaghettoni with Meatballs, Pork Chop Parmigiano, Fettucine Alfredo with Mushrooms, Chicken Piccata, Veal Milanese, nightly Prime Rib, and so on — basically all the classics done very well with the pastas all made in house.
It sounded so good at the time of writing that there may have been some drool involved. So you can imagine how stoked I was to see chef Derek Gray walking through the room with some Prime Rib covered in wagyu beef fat and peppercorns. Hell, even he was stoked…
I was also thrilled to see fat raviolos in mid-construction, baked ziti coming out of the oven, and fresh cannelloni being rolled before my eyes. All the prep and cooking going on made the room smell a lot better than it used to. Honestly, it was a little bit discombobulating.
Truly, it’s amazing how much it still looks and feels like Nick’s. See that carpet, the one that looks like it’s always been there, like, for 60 years? It’s brand new. So is the little bar, the chandeliers, the front room floors, the kitchen pass, the plates, the glassware, the silver, et cetera. They’ve done a masterfully respectful homage job, but the proof – of course – will be in the feel of it mid-rush on a Saturday night.
There’s still some work to be done in the dining room before they open the doors. Only a handful of tables were covered in table cloths and properly set for the sake of training yesterday. The staff – both front and back of house – are going to be put through their paces before they make first contact with any customers. They were just beginning this process – working on floor protocols and service scenarios – as I was shooting the room.
On Monday (June 18), the staff from Savio Volpe will be coming in to dine on Pepino’s dime (so as to provide them with real-time service simulations), and then they’ll follow up with two friends and family services on Tuesday and Wednesday. They’ll take Thursday off for some rest and reflection, and then open to the public on Friday, June 22.
Take a closer look: