The inspiring story behind this new Sheffield city centre restaurant

A new Italian cafe and restaurant is coming soon to Sheffield city centre, and there’s an inspiring story behind the impending opening.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 1:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 5:02 pm

Grazie, which is set to replace the former Prosecco Lounge on Leopold Street, will serve coffee and cakes in the morning and freshly made pasta from midday.

Its launch, scheduled for early next month, will mark the heartwarming culmination of a huge personal journey for owner Vito Vernia.

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Vito Vernia outside the soon-to-open Grazie cafe and restaurant on Leopold Street in Sheffield city centre, with his wife Alena, and their two-month-old son Joseph

Two years ago, the 29-year-old, of Crookes, set himself four big life goals: to get married in his native country, buy a house in Sheffield, have a baby and open a family restaurant.

He realised the first of those ambitions last year when he and his wife Alena, who tied the knot at a register office in Reading five years ago, celebrated their union with a huge wedding party in his native town of Puglia, in southern Italy.

The couple bought their first house together this year and two months ago celebrated the birth of their first child, Joseph.

But Vito, who came to the UK in 2013 and works as an assistant general manager for the Italian restaurant chain Piccolino, says starting his own business has proved the hardest of those targets to achieve.

Vito hopes to open the new cafe and restaurant in the first half of October

“I’ve spent more than a year looking for somewhere in which to open my first restaurant, and I've seen so many places, but this was the perfect location and just the right size,” he said.

“I’m over the moon to be achieving the last of my goals. I’ve challenged myself as never before and proved that if you really want something it’s possible. You just need to believe in yourself.”

Vito said the restaurant – whose name translates from Italian as ‘thank you’ – will open from 8am to 10pm and feature a pared-down menu with four types of homemade pasta and three or four freshly made sauces, including meat and vegetarian options.

The pasta will be made in house each day by a woman from Vito’s native Puglia, where his family runs a restaurant and two bed and breakfast establishments.

Vito and his wife Alena on their wedding day

There will be a selection of wines from Puglia and elsewhere, and his brother Pierpaolo, who is a bartender at Piccolino, will be in charge of cocktails.

Opening a restaurant is an ambitious undertaking for anyone, especially someone with a two-month-old son, but Vito is undaunted.

“It’s hard work but I like to keep busy and challenge myself,” he said.

Vito and Alena's two-month-old son Joseph