I can’t believe I’ve not been here since mid-October. It wasn’t intentional. For days, then weeks and eventually months, I scolded myself for not, at least, letting you know I was still among the living. Although, some days, only by a breath. Long story short, the restaurant’s open. Like most tough life journeys, it would have been interesting to document. Like most tough life journeys, there was no time.
When Ralph and I returned from Italy, little to no progress had been made at the restaurant. I went away thinking we’d be ready to start installing the ‘fun stuff’ as soon as I got back. A twenty second site visit made things painfully clear. In order to be open for the holiday season, my partners and I needed to be on-site, present and ready to do whatever it took to get the doors open. We hired my brother and his wife, Paul and Rena Chase as our generals, figured out our game plan then worked twelve hours a day, seven days a week for eight weeks. Liz, Gord and I touched every inch of our space; from floor to ceiling we crawled, climbed, painted, sawed, hammered, drilled, carried, moved, covered and organized.
Beyond the physical pressure, we had had the additional pressure of designing the restaurant. We are not designers, we have very different taste and we had a very limited budget which added up to hours of discussion, negotiations, arguments, hurt feelings and eventually decisions. A business relationship is no different than a romantic relationship. It requires clear, kind, respectful and patient communication. Stress, lack of sleep and way too much coffee was the perfect cocktail to make us unclear, unkind, disrespectful and crazy impatient with one another. The only thing that kept us on the rails was our shared want to do our best. Understanding that our differences were coming from what we believed to be the best idea let us move forward. We lived by George Elliot Shaw’s words, “Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” And so on December 2, 2016, Italian by Night welcomed our first full house. No time to work out last minute details, test the equipment, ease the staff into their new space or even take a breath. That morning I still had my work boots on, at 5 pm I was in my chef’s coat.
The month of December was a blur. Our wonderful, kind, welcoming community has embraced us beyond our wildest dreams. There were definitely some missteps: our phone rang approximately every ninety seconds with guests wanting to make reservations. With heads down, a fantastic team of chefs and servers we did our best.
The bitter cold of January has settled in. Time to pause, breathe deep and smile.
Thanks for reading.
photos by Mallory Walker