Nick’s Spaghetti House was one of the city’s last iconic restaurants. Can the team from Savio Volpe honour its past while creating their own future?
We go behind the scenes to see just how a new Italian joint comes together.
It’s 5:30 on a snowy Wednesday night in late February, and Paul Grunberg is looking out at the growing flakes and worrying. “This isn’t good for tonight,” he mutters as he pulls out his phone and checks how many covers —170—are scheduled at his restaurant, Savio Volpe, where he’s sitting with his business partners, chef Mark Perrier and designer Craig Stanghetta.
“Not good,” he says, looking out at the snow. “We should be at 220.” Grunberg’s just a few weeks removed from selling out of L’Abattoir, the popular Gastown spot he founded, and his newly grown-out beard, coupled with his dialled-in focus, recall a Serpico- era Al Pacino: equal parts energy and cool reserve.
If his partners have any of Grunberg’s concern about the snow, they’re not showing it. Perrier has the perspective of someone who’s already walked away from this industry once: several years ago, he was an up-andcoming chef with stints at Le Gavroche in London and West under David Hawksworth when the combination of kitchen politics and the grind of the industry got to him—so, with an eye to his young family, he packed it in. He spent the three years prior to Savio happily toiling as a butcher at Two Rivers Meats.
And Stanghetta, adesigner who, with his company Ste. Marie Design, spent the previous decade before Savio turning other restaurateurs’ dreams into reality, still maintains an air of I-can’t-believe-I-get-to-do-thisas-my-job excitement when he sits in the corner booth of a place that he actually owns.
Nothing helps promote camaraderie in the restaurant business like success, and Savio’s enviable balance sheet only reinforced the feeling these three had that they were on to something special when they first saw a decrepit tire store at Fraser and Kingsway. 1 Instead of seeing environmental issues, they imagined an Italian spot built around a wood-fired oven: the sort of place they’d envisioned when they’d get together every Saturday to talk about what would make the perfect restaurant.
But the team is not here to talk about Savio.