When restaurateur Nick Felicella announced that he would be closing his well-loved spaghetti house on the Drive late last year, Vancouverites mourned the loss of a perennially frequented staple in the city’s restaurant scene.
Shortly after Nick’s Spaghetti House shut its doors after 62 years in business, the team behind Fraserhood’s critically acclaimed Savio Volpe took possession of the space. They decided it was time for a second restaurant venture, and Nick’s former digs in Vancouver’s Little Italy was the perfect place for it.
Pepino’s (631 Commercial Drive) quietly opened its doors last week, and guests will immediately be able to tell that the space pays tribute to its predecessor—think dark wooden tables, red upholstered seats, and the same oil paintings that hung on Nick’s walls.
“It was really important to us that we paid homage to Nick and Nick’s Spaghetti House,” Paul Grunberg, co-owner at Pepino’s, told the Straight in a phone interview—“us” refers to his restaurant partners Mark Perrier and Craig Stanghetta (of Ste. Marie Art and Design). “Old regulars of Nick’s have come in and said that they were really happy that we didn’t change a thing, even though we did spend a large amount of money to upgrade the facilities.”
Unlike Savio, which serves up authentic Italian dishes, Pepino’s offers Italian-American classics. Both lunch and dinner menus are available, featuring items like spaghetti and meatballs, chicken piccata, Caesar salad, peppercorn-crusted prime rib, and house lasagna, among many others.
Dessert creations include a New York-style cheese cake with fruit syrup, spumoni gelato, and tiramisu—so remember to save room for the sweets.
According to Grunberg, Pepino’s menu won’t be rotating, but diners can expect features. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to have a bit of fun,” he said.
The new dining spot will have a 100 percent Italian-focused wine list, and a spirit menu with limited offerings: bottled Negroni and bottled Manhattan.
As Pepino’s welcomes its first wave of guests, the eatery’s masterminds are simultaneously working on another project next door: Caffè La Tana. It will be an authentic Italian grocer and café concept with breakfast and lunch options, which is scheduled to debut sometime this fall.
For now, Grunberg and his team are happy that they can focus most of their time and energy on the opening of their new restaurant and its guests.
“My hope is that some of Nick’s best regular customers will walk in and be like ‘Thank god you kept it in the genre of Nick’s’, [because] we didn’t want to come in and turn it into a restaurant that it isn’t,” said Grunberg. “We just wanted to pay respect to Nick and his customers. Hopefully it will be another great restaurant for Vancouver, somewhere to dine in an affordable way that is accessible to families.”More