Most people knew of a family restaurant growing up. Maybe your parents had their first date there, or it’s where you’ve always celebrated birthdays. It’s the place everyone always wanted to go. When you come home from college, that’s the place you go out to eat. It’s someplace special. While away at college, students are looking to find a new special place — a restaurant where all their friends can go out for celebrations.
Vescio’s Italian Restaurant has been that special place for over 60 years. Located just two blocks from the University of Minnesota’s East Bank in Dinkytown, the restaurant has served Italian dishes since 1956. It has been a gathering place for homesick students looking for homemade meals. On March 9, the restaurant will be closing its doors. They made their announcement on Feb. 11 in a Facebook post. They thanked the community, their customers and their family as the restaurant has had five generations of the Vescio’s family work in Dinkytown.
Vescio’s is also a staple at the Minnesota State Fair. Every year their food truck near the Grandstand serves to-die-for deep-fried ravioli. The family has not said if they will continue to work the State Fair. News of their closing has packed the restaurant. Since the announcement, the staff has been working extra hard to serve the overwhelming number of guests. In order to keep up with high demand, they changed to a more retro menu. The nostalgic guests are happy to get one last taste of Vescio’s sauces, made from scratch.
Vescio’s is the last sit-down Italian restaurant in Dinkytown. When Frank Vescio first started his business, though, he was not the only Italian restaurant present. There was competition next door dishing up homemade pasta and lasagna at Sammy D’s. Mama D, the restaurant’s matriarch, served everyone from local celebrities to the homeless population. She authored a cookbook and taught classes in the store. Her books made her a national chef and an advocate for homemade meals vs. microwave meals. People like Frank Vescio and Mama D gave the neighborhood life.
Since the 70–80’s golden era of sit-down dining, restaurants in Dinkytown have replaced booths with counter-service kitchens to serve students on the go. Students are too busy to sit down and enjoy a meal out. The exceptions are Asian food restaurants such as Camdi, Shuang Cheng and Pagoda. Conversations with business owners in the area suggest a Chinese restaurant will set up shop in Vescio’s old building. The new restaurant will be an exciting development, but for now it is time to mourn. Only legendary restaurants last sixty years, and Vescio’s will be missed.
This article first appeared in the Friday, March 2, 2018, Edition of The Echo.