Huge success coming from a little green building

In the Pickering Village, located in Ajax, Ont., stands a small green building, which is home to the Scagliotti’s Italian restaurant. They want all customers to receive that little taste of Italy.

This year, Roberto Scagliotti, 50, is celebrating his 25th anniversary, as head chef and owner of the Pickering Village landmark restaurant known as Casa Verde. A family owned restaurant, owned by himself and his wife Joanne Scagliotti, have been serving fresh, Italian food since 1991.

As many restaurants, especially independently owned restaurants fail within their first few years of opening, the Casa Verde has been going strong and have many people eating at their restaurant on a daily basis.

According to CNBC, around 60 percent of restaurants fail within the first year. With that being said, a family owned restaurant being open for 25 years is quite an accomplishment.

Scagliotti immigrated to Canada, from Italy, in 1979 with his parents. The reason for his immigration to Canada was due to his father losing his job in Italy.

“We thought we lived a good life in Italy, we definitely did, but then once my dad lost his job then things changed,” Scagliotti said.

Scagliotti did not know any English when he arrived, so he took TESOL classes, (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). He feels that this helped him to adapt to the Canadian way of life, something he thinks all immigrants should do.

“I see it all the time where people from other countries immigrate and keep their culture and language and don’t adapt, which I find is really hard,” Scagliotti said.

Even with the language barrier, Scagliotti never found it hard getting a job in Canada.

“I thought it was winter wonderland here. I arrived at 13 years old and I already had a paper route, Scagliotti said. Unheard of in Europe.”

Scagliotti got his first job in the restaurant business at the age of 14. He washed dishes behind the bar at a German restaurant called Zum Gasthof in Roncesvalles.

Next, he was hired at Parioli’s as a dishwasher, but was still able to gain some training involving cooking.

“The chef used to take me on the side and used to teach me a few little things. and I started enjoying doing it and realized it was a good little job, better than dishwashing,” Scagliotti said.

In terms of learning the trade of cooking, Scagliotti found it was no problem.

“It was hard work, perseverance, and wanting to learn the job. I found it very easy,” Scagliotti said.

Scagliotti worked at a number of restaurants in the kitchens in Toronto, though he wanted to do more. He wanted to own his own restaurant business.

“It was a necessity to make more money and start a family. The job that I was at, I didn’t feel like it was adequate enough and secure enough of course to do that. That was pretty well the transition for me to getting my own little place,” Scagliotti said.

So, at the age of 25, with his wife Joanne Scagliotti, they decided to take ownership of their own restaurant business. Instead of starting in Toronto, they looked on the outskirts because the rent was cheaper. At the time, the Pickering site was run down, and was owned by Warner Schwarder, who also owned a restaurant called, Capitan for Seafood.

“The restaurant was eight months not working, and we made a deal with the landlord, and he went for it, and we jumped all over it,” Scagliotti said.

Family owned restaurants are hard to market and gain popularity, though when the Scagliotti’s were renovating the building, they put up a sign outside the building that said, “Italian restaurant coming soon.” It stayed up for about two months.

Business was not hard to come by for the Scagliotti’s and their restaurant, Casa Verde, as they started doing business right away, and it did not take long to boom.

“We started doing business right off the get go, but things didn’t really start to get going until after the first year, until we were a bit more established and when the town started growing,” Scagliotti said.

Through the 25 years of ownership, the theme of the restaurant hasn’t changed much, but the menu has. Throughout the years, Scagliotti said that classic Italian dishes have been taken off the menu. The menu has been more, “Canadianized.”

Residents within the Durham Region seem to like what Casa Verde brings to the table.

“It was an all-around great experience, and I keep saying every time we go that we should go back,” Steve Dunn, an Ajax resident said.

Also, the food at the Casa Verde does not leave customers leaving hungry.

“The food is more than enough. I ordered a steak and pasta, and they each came on a separate plate it was so much. Me and my wife probably could have shared it,” Dunn said.

Scagliotti even has people that he used to work for who he said are retired now, come into his restaurant to eat. There are a lot of customers that come to the Casa Verde that are returning customers.

Co-op students also work at the restaurant, in which Scagliotti works with Durham College to give students interested in the restaurant industry a place to work at to give them hands-on experience in the field.

Scagliotti is also thinking of what he wants to do with his family business when he is retired. He doesn’t know exactly what he wants to do with the business in the coming years, in which he doesn’t expect for his daughters to take over the family business.

“We don’t have plans for the future as far as the restaurant goes, but we own the building today, and it would be a beautiful lawyer’s office, doctor’s office, or hair salon,” Scagliotti said.

Roberto Scagliotti is a very proud Canadian citizen, and grateful for everything and every one of his opportunities that he has been able to have in Canada, from having a paper route at a young age to, owning and being the head chef at his very own restaurant, Casa Verde.

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