It will be the end of an era in Williams Lake when the city’s only family-operated Italian restaurant closes up shop this month for good.
Just 30 days shy of celebrating their 21st year in business, Carol and Archie DiCecco have been busy in the kitchen serving up favourite dishes to their longtime customers of Trattoria Pasta Shoppe since announcing the closure.
“There is sadness, but there is pride too,” Archie said of retiring after he and his wife Carol have made the business such a success in the lakecity.
“It’s definitely been one of my dreams come true.”
Born in Montreal to an Italian father and French Canadian mother, Argentino, or Archie for short, said he was influenced by sports as a child, and also his mother’s cooking.
“Just the aroma itself would pull you in, and I wasn’t afraid to get in the kitchen and help,” Archie said.
“That’s the family recipe from decades ago that we use in the kitchen, my mom’s meat sauce.”
Carol was born and raised in Elk Point, Alberta on a self-sustaining farm with seven children in the family, where she learned how to make perogies by the time she was eight.
“She is a fine cook,” Archie said of Carol, who gave up her job at Community Living to work at the family business full-time just a few years after they opened the doors in September 1997.
Archie, one of six children, found his way west in 1972 as a teenager, working in Vancouver, then a mine in Cassiar where he played for a fastball team representing the United Steelworkers Union.
The sport took him to Williams Lake, where there were lots of jobs and he got work right away at one of the local mills.
Archie took Carol out on a date to a carnival after asking her out through her older sister and the two have been inseparable ever since, raising two children, son Mica, and daughter, Jolene.
Archie worked various jobs raising the family before working and becoming the manager of then-pizza shop, Panagopoulis 2 for 1 Pizza in 1992.
When they learned the original owners of Trattoria Pasta Shoppe wanted out, Archie saw an opportunity to fulfill a dream and jumped at it.
“I’m not a guy that drinks beer, I love food,” Archie said.
Two weeks later, they bought the business and have been working hard ever since creating their own “alternative Italian cuisine” and reshaping the menu to include appetizers and their own recipes.
“We felt we needed to make it a better dining experience for those that felt at home and wanted to sit and talk.”
Over the years the two have become friends with their customers, who they’ve seen go on dates, get married and bring their own children to the restaurant.
“The customers — they’re the ones that drive you to keep going. When you see them coming back you know you’re doing something right.”
Over the years the business suffered two major setbacks; a fire in the apartments above the restaurant in 2001 that shutdown the business for six months, and the 2017 wildfires that shut down the restaurant for a month.
When the fires broke out last year, and the couple decided they needed to evacuate, the family, including their son Mica, who has worked alongside his parents for years, went to the kitchen and cooked all the food they had and donated it to the first evacuees who stayed in the Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus. The donation amounted to more than 70 meals for appreciative evacuees and volunteers.
They also helped out doing whatever was needed in Prince George during the evacuation.
“I want to do more of that when I retire,” Archie said. “I couldn’t do much volunteering before because you’re married to the business, there’s no time. Now I want to give back to the community who has given so much to us. Our roots are here, this is our home.”
Archie also suffered a health crisis in 2009, having a heart attack.
“I feel very lucky and very thankful,” Archie said of surviving the heart attack because he had gone to the hospital 20 minutes before it happened.
Since his recovery, Archie has been able to work another nine years and see the birth of his grandson.
And now, with only a few days before the restaurant closes, the couple are looking forward to new opportunities in the future, some which may include food.
“We need a break, but there could be a potential cookbook,” Archie said, acknowledging the decision to close is bitter sweet.
“The rewards of having your own business and making it a success makes you really proud. But you have to know when it’s time to go, and it’s time.”
The restaurant is scheduled to close Aug. 11, while supplies last.