By Daniel Meyer
In the back of his mind, Nick Pitillo always had a plan to pursue his dream.
After many years of working in the corporate food and beverage industry and being the driving force that coordinated the day-to-day responsibilities of some family-owned restaurants, casinos and resorts, Pitillo opened a casual Italian pub in Buffalo. Osteria 166 quickly became a popular dining destination and a business that Pitillo takes great pride in owning and operating.
But earlier this year, Pitillo had a lingering thought emerge from his brain, prompting him to explore the possibility of opening a second restaurant and doing what he wanted to do for many years – return home.
“Ellicottville is home to me,” Pitillo said. “It just made sense for me personally and professionally to take a chance on a community that has brought so much joy to my life. Some people may think I’m a bit out there to want to own and operate two restaurants, especially when they are about 50 miles apart, but I believe this is meant to be.”
Pitillo’s excitement will culminate on Fall Festival weekend with the opening of Villaggio, an establishment that will feature the same relaxed and casual atmosphere that he created at Osteria 166. With the Festival upon us and the annual arrival of winter visitors to the region over the next few months, the debut of Villaggio comes at an ideal time for Pitillo and his staff to make an impression on tourists, as well as year-round residents of the area.
“This is incredible and it has taken a lot of hard work, a ton of my time and lots of energy by all sorts of people, but we are thrilled to be opening and think we are going to be a perfect fit in Ellicottville,” said Pitillo. “I’m finishing up some final details for our liquor license and other tasks that come with opening a new restaurant, but when all of that is done, what we will have is a premiere destination for people to visit and feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.”
Pitillo and Jeff Cooke, his business partner and executive chef, purchased the building that formerly housed The Barn in early September and have been busy improving the exterior and renovating the interior, which included a complete kitchen redesign. The end result is an attractive venue to serve what Pitillo describes as “rustic Italian food” in a relaxed family setting.
“Our menu will have various Italian dishes that are family recipes – signature items that are what I am going to refer to as ‘Osteria’s Greatest Hits’ because they have proven to be the most popular meals we serve in Buffalo,” said Pitillo. “We will have spaghetti and meatballs and risotto sticks and some other delicious dishes that people who live in and visit Ellicottville are going to love.”
Pitillo says Villaggio will have approximately 20 employees, some of whom will be full-time. Among the full-timers is Spencer Murray, who will serve as the restaurant manager, oversee daily operations and serve as Pitillo’s eyes and ears when he is at Osteria 166.
“Spencer is awesome at what he does and he is a native Western New Yorker who is moving back to the area,” said Pitillo. “He is a great kid who I’ve worked with in the past, including at a hotel in Massachusetts and a beach bar in New Hampshire. He’s tremendous and is just as excited as I am about taking care of our guests and establishing relationships.”
Pitillo said he, his wife Kendra and their daughter Olivia have been fully embraced by the community since their family made the decision to move to Ellicottville and devote their lives to making sure Villaggio succeeds and to giving back to the region as active citizens.
“It’s amazing how smoothly everything has gone for us as a family and how comfortable we are,” said Pitillo. “A lot has changed since I moved away 30 years ago. My wife is a country girl at heart and my daughter is fitting in with what’s happening at school. It has just been really exciting to get established, not only as a new business owner but as a family. We are going to be involved and active and the feedback we’ve gotten has really encouraged us to fully commit to our decision to move here.”
Pitillo said the menu and hours of operation may be “tweaked here and there” but right now the plan is to serve dinner daily and offer lunches on weekends, with a Sunday brunch in the works as well as special events and holiday-themed celebrations.
“The sky is the limit with what we have going and I think the development and growth happening in Ellicottville is outstanding. That should allow us to fit in, fill a niche and provide a place with a really comfortable vibe,” said Pitillo. “I am very eager to welcome everyone and make it clear that Villaggio will be a place where you will be warmly welcomed as friends and leave as part of our family.”
For more information, visit Villaggio on Facebook, or call 699-2199.