By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – While there have been many unique restaurants in Warsaw over the years, Italian eateries have been far and few between.
Other than Bella Vitale, which had a short-lived existence in the Wyndham Garden Hotel complex a few years ago, there has never been a major quality, fine dining restaurant that caters to lovers of lasagna, linguine and fettucini.
But that’s about to change.
According to the owners of two Italian restaurants – Salvatori’s Authentic Italian Eatery, a family-owned chain in Fort Wayne; and Papa Vino’s Italian Kitchen, a small chain owned by the regional restaurant company, Quality Dining, Mishawaka – both are planning to open restaurants in Warsaw.
If this were viewed as a race to be the first to open, Salvatori’s appears to have a slight lead. They plan to open in September after renovations are complete at Richards Restaurant on US 30.
The owner of Salvatori’s, Panos Bourounis, purchased the shuttered restaurant on US 30 soon after it closed about a year ago, but was undecided about its future until recently.
Bourounis operates five restaurants in the Fort Wayne area, including one on Leo Road that recently opened.
He said the new restaurant will seat upward of 175 people. But staffing has been a concern since it takes about 60 people to operate a large restaurant, he said.
“That was the main concern but we really feel that there is a need for a larger format Salvatori’s for the Warsaw area,” he said.
Renovations will include new plumbing, new electrical and a new exterior look. He said it will be one of the most expensive locations to construct for his company, “but in the long run, I think it will pay off for us.”
Bourounis said he’s visited the city of Warsaw about a dozen times in recent months to survey the dining environment.
“I saw a lot of pizza places, but not a true Italian restaurant,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Quality Dining confirmed Friday, May 6, that one of three new alcohol licenses recently sold in Kosciusko County includes one intended for a future restaurant in Warsaw.
“You can’t have a Papa Vino’s without the vino,” said Kelli Stopczynski, director of marketing for Quality Dining,
“We did recently purchase a beer, wine and liquor license for Kosciusko County, which is all part of the process toward what we hope will be a new restaurant in the Warsaw area.”
Talk of the restaurant looking at land near Kohl’s on SR 15 has been circulating, but Stopczynski said they are not ready to announce a location. She said they want to allow for time for due diligence out of respect for the process.
In addition to Papa Vino’s, Quality Dining owns Uptown Kitchen in Granger and operates 148 Burger King restaurants in Florida, Indiana and Michigan.
Last year, Quality Dining reconstructed its Burger King in Warsaw.
“We think the Warsaw and Kosciusko County greater community is a tremendous market and we are confident that our Papa Vino’s brand will be well received there.”
Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Parker said he was aware of the news and welcomed it with open arms. “I love it. I’m just not sure my waistline will,” Parker said.
Parker said demand for an Italian restaurant in Warsaw has been one of the most common themes that he hears.
“To get two in the not-so-distant future is really cool,” Parker said.
Neither of the two companies appeared to be aware of each other’s competition.