Inside Pepino’s Spaghetti House as Launch Nears

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:

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There are 4 comments

  1. I don’t know, like so many restaurants on Commercial now, seems to hipster/yuppie for me. I like Nick’s because it was unpretentious and waitress’s were down to earth, especially because we all grew up in the neighborhood and ate there all the time. Might check it out, but probably stick out like a sore thumb, because these types of people are coming to our neighborhood and trying to make us feel uncomfortable. Good luck with that!

  2. I am so excited! These guys are the best replacement for Nicks. I know you’ll make me Proud. Congrats!

  3. My family ate here in the 50s and 60s (we lived right around the corner) and it was a great neighbourhood place but I have to admit–after doing a lot of travelling in Italy and living in NYC for some years–the food was actually pretty mediocre, and since moving back to Vancouver have always thought it was overrated. I welcome seeing the Savio Volpe crew here. They know how to do a great neighbourhood place and I’m positive the food will be molto better.

  4. We went tonight and were underwhelmed overall. They’ve hired ‘we’re so much cooler than you’ staff – the hostess was awful and in her way let us know where we stood.
    Having been to nick’s – first time when I was 16 – I was curious to see the transformation. It’s nice to see it looking more or less like a cleaned up nick’s. The menu is most definitely nick’s and the food is not much above nick’s. A slightly weak wine menu, one one bottled beer on list, and a few cocktails.
    We were ignored once our meal arrived and then again up until we paid.
    And if you’re not one for a loud room this place is not for you – our ears were ringing an hour or more after leaving. It’s loud.
    I doubt we’ll be back but I doesn’t matter, they’re packed.

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