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Carrying on the Tradition

Spago Trattoria Expands Footprint in Little Italy
Author: Jen Brignall-Strong
Photographer: Marcello Pizzo
2 months ago
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Whether it’s an intimate dinner for two or a 200-person wedding reception, the owners of Spago Trattoria see every event as cause for celebration.

“The size doesn’t drive the event; the people engaging in conversation and enjoying the moment is what it’s all about. That’s what’s important to us,” says co-owner Pete Vitti. “There’s nothing better than breaking bread with friends and family.”

Since taking over the popular restaurant in 2008, Pete and his brother Ralph have grown the Erie Street mainstay exponentially; expanding to three locations while maintaining the reputation for high quality Italian fare and old-world hospitality that have made the brand a household name in Essex County for over 32 years.

“Our story is simple and yet has a tremendous amount of emotion tied to it,” he says. “If you think about it, 32 years is grand but what’s really amazing is that so many people in Windsor have celebrated some type of family event here; a baptism, a birthday party, an engagement. You name it; there’s been something where people have made a family memory. Being a local family ourselves, that means everything to us.”

Helping create lifelong memories is something the team will continue in the coming months as they begin a new chapter in their own family story; acquiring the reception hall at St. Angela Merici Church at the corner of Erie Street and Louis Avenue.

It’s not officially a fourth location; more of an expansion of their current footprint in Little Italy, explains Pete.

“We’re going to be doing some group dining out of there, some small weddings, caterings, events, and those types of experiences,” he explains.

“The main reason why we took over the hall at St. Angela was to solidify and keep the Italian tradition on Erie Street,” he continues. “My parents were married at St. Angela; when you talk about memories and being a pillar of the community, that’s it. We don’t want to just maintain those traditions, we want them to grow.”

Pete says they’re currently starting on a few small but impactful renovations and will be taking bookings for 2023.

In the meantime, the team remains focused on servicing their loyal clientele at their existing locations on Erie Street, in South Windsor, and at Caesars Windsor. While each of the restaurants features the same familiar menu items, Pete says they all have their own unique atmosphere.

“We made them all look a little different for a reason; they all have their own ambiance to them,” he notes. “Everyone says, ‘You need to make them all the exact same’ but we kind of went against the grain and said, ‘No we don’t’ because at the end of the day, the Spago brand is about more than just looks; it’s about people coming together.”

It’s also about the food; all prepared by hand by their team of red seal chefs and dedicated kitchen staff. The entire menu is made from scratch, in house with local produce and responsibly sourced meats, notes Pete.

“The ingredients we use are very important to us,” he says. “We source responsible ingredients; our chicken and veal are hormone-free and steroid-free. Many of the cured meats we use are made from our own cellars; there are no nitrates in them. Our salad dressing, also made in house; no additives, no preservatives.”

All their vegetables are local as well, sourced through local grocery stores, farms, and greenhouses.

“We get a tremendous amount of tomatoes straight from Leamington,” he adds, noting that all of Spago’s pasta sauces are made in house as well.

“Our ravioli are hand-made too; we don’t even use a machine,” he continues. “We make our lasagnas, we make our manicotti. We make those in house with our own local labour, so to me when you talk about local, it’s not just local product. We make as much as we can on our menu with the hands right here in Windsor, Ontario.”

While that menu is filled with classic Italian dishes, Pete says they’re always cooking up new items to dazzle their diners.

“Our chefs have some really creative stuff they like to do,” he shares. “We have some fun things planned that we’ll be launching for the holiday season.”

The team’s passion for innovation and entertaining is what continues to drive Spago as they look ahead to the future while remaining true to their family roots.

“Our entire organization is obsessed with our customers,” he reflects. “We love what we do and we’re going to continue to service this community.”

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