The casual atmosphere of a family home, it seems so far removed from what we would expect from a party hosted at a business in the heart of the city but it’s exactly what people got at Vesuvio’s on New Years Eve. Whether in full gowns and white tie, button downs with rolled sleeves, or soft bare skin and chilled nips all were welcome at the Italian ball drop pre-game hosted by Julia Ruggieri, the new owner of the illustrious Vesuvio’s on Shady Street.
With a New Year comes new opportunity, be it following a line of mistaken assumption and chasing the suggestion of “coupling” with the handsome escort for a New Years party, getting a gym membership that I’m confident will pay off this year for those of us who brave that storm, or taking the helm of a much loved restaurant with bold new Ideas. Before this party I had the chance to sit with Miss Ruggieri and talk to her about what Vesuvio’s meant to her and what she might hope it would mean to the community, there was a lot of the usual talk of hopes and dreams and where things went from here.
As she sat with a glass of red and a coy smile I posed my questions, her answers were smooth, natural and as pleasing as the sight of her. I asked why she would choose to run a restaurant and suffer the stress of a bar and heat of a kitchen when she could enjoy the sun and sand, and she played it off as a dating game. “My mother told me to find a good man, Mister Masatada. My Grandmother told me the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It only seemed natural.”
The more we spoke the more it became clear that family was not just a tired line to be thrown to catch customers for Vesuvio’s but an honest and large part of Julia’s life. When I suggested that some people might laugh off the “guests are family” theme so many places play to these days Julia told me that through Vesuvio’s she already had plans to reach out to the Hostel, and was working with a local homeless shelter to distribute anything leftover at the end of a night that could not be saved, though she admitted that she and her Head Chef Mallory were purposefully heavy handed in prep because of this. She also added that they did not judge ones past when seeking employment and welcomed anyone no matter their history with open arms. With a small shrug she said, “Honestly, it’s not for me to answer, it’s for the community to come experience and judge for themselves."
While she bribed me with some of the best Garlic knots I’ve had in a long time (sorry Mama,) she spoke of upcoming plans to involve the community in the Menu and future of Vesuvio’s itself, the plans she has for the future are exciting though I’ll leave those treats for her to reveal. Between our discussion and watching her during the New Years party I realized Julia just seems to want to offer a welcoming place for people to spend their time, break bread with friends and enemies; she assured me there would be no godfather type scenes with a pistol behind the toilet tank (but did encourage me to check when I visit as a free gun is a free gun!) when I settle in to enjoy fresh hand made Italian favorites with a new world twist, such as the Margherita Pizza served on a cauliflower crust she and Mallory had been playing with. As my questions drew to a close she turned on me with questions of her own, showing a legitimate interest in getting to know her customers when she could have just let me write a glorified advertisement.
If the New Years Party and the generosity she showed with passing around the cannoli’s is anything to go by there is more to Vesuvio’s than just a place to get your grub on. Since the interview, I’ve been back just for the hell of it even if there’s food closer to the Chronicle. If you’ve been passing by or hesitant since Jordan moved on, I think it’s time to drop by and say “Hi” again. Worst comes to worst, you won’t be disappointed with the scenery but I suspect you’ll find more to like than what you can look at.