- Celebrate Diversity (April)
Celebrate Diversity (April)
April 10, 2021 | ACVN | Andreina Verdesoto and Dugan Caswell
Andreina Verdesoto began her architecture career in Ecuador working on the American Consulate, where she met her now-husband, Dugan Caswell, a fellow architect. After moving to Fredericksburg, she created ACVN, an architecture, construction, and project management company in 2018. We had the opportunity to interview Andreina and Dugan at one of their project locations to talk about their business-owning journey and emphasis on sustainable architecture.
When did your passion for architecture begin? How did you get to where you are today as a business owner of your own architecture company?
Andreina: My passion for architecture began when I was 18. When I was 15 I liked to draw a lot, and when I had to go to college I thought, “Which career could I go and draw?” That’s when I went to architecture school. After I graduated from school, I did some small jobs, but then I started working for the American Consulate in Ecuador when they began building the Consulate. I was working for a subcontractor that assigned me to that project and that’s where I met Dugan [Andreina’s husband], he was the architect for the company. We had to work everyday together and it was very much a “hate” relationship at the beginning! We were friends but he would just come over and say, “Well you forgot to do this, you need to work on this, you need to do this!” But that’s how we both got to know each other.
After the consulate, we moved to Fredericksburg and I had Abigail, our daughter. In 2018 I decided to create a company where I could work part time- that was the initial idea. We found a project that we liked, a statewide project for Virginia ABC, we made a proposal, our first one as a company, and we won! All of that made the whole company develop faster, because that’s when I had to bring Dugan to my company.
What has been your favorite project to work on?
Dugan: It was a neat commercial renovation project in downtown Warrenton, right on main street. It was one of these wonderful old buildings from the late 1800s and we got to renovate quite a bit of it. We took a totally raw space in the back and transformed it into this really beautiful office for a civil engineering company. It was pretty cool!
What do you enjoy most about being part of and servicing the Fredericksburg community?
Andreina: What I like about Fredericksburg is their support. As a new business owner, it was nice that I could go to city hall and they’d be nice about answering all of the questions I had.
Dugan: The Small Business Development Center, they’re all super helpful and super friendly there. Fredericksburg is also a great location, in terms of being the crux of Stafford and Spotsylvania County, and being close to Richmond and D.C.
What does the process of designing a project look like?
Dugan: It just starts out with a conversation, finding out what the client wants, what their expectations are, and then you can figure out what you guys can do together.
ACVN places an emphasis on eco-friendly architecture. What does that look like? Why is sustainable architecture so important?
Andreina: When you think eco-friendly or energy efficient, most people think about solar panels. What we’re trying to put in each design is building science, to make the house more comfortable and work for your benefit.
Dugan: We can just do some little detailing tricks to minimize air infiltration, seal around things, minimize thermal bridging, and minimize insulation voids. Those small things decrease how much heat loss there is in the winter. These are very small things but they go quite a long way to increase the thermal energy efficiency of the building and reduce heating cost. We like to take things a step further but every client has a threshold about how much they’re comfortable with.
What do you want to see for ACVN in the next 5-10 years?
Andreina: Our dream right now is to escalate the amount of energy efficient science that we are putting in houses, and to educate. We’re going to start doing blogs about energy efficiency so we can start educating people and they can get more comfortable with some of the ideas that we might propose in the future!
April 14, 2021 | 540 Party Bus | Gary and Antoinette Arrington
Gary and Antoinette Arrington’s talent and creativity allowed them to adapt 540 Party Bus to celebrate special moments during COVID. With weddings, graduations, proms, and birthdays cancelled in 2020, the Arringtons quickly shifted to providing unique parties for small groups of friends and family, with no amount of luxury spared. We had the opportunity to interview Gary and Antoinette in their Ford F-550 Party Bus to talk about how they started their family business, the events they service, and their dedication to the community.
Where did the idea for 540 Party Bus come from?
Antoinette: Originally the company did not start out as a transportation business, it started as an inflatable rental business. It was a way to provide income to our families. I have nieces and a nephew that are old enough that in the summers they need a job, so we started the inflatables and they would deliver them and pick them back up. As time went on, my husband had a group of friends, some developers, who had sessions on Sundays together and they started building an app for party busses.
Gary: It was like Uber for party busses! It’s funny that you mentioned the Sunday development meetings because it was actually called ‘Diversity Developers.’ We would bring a lot of diversity to the IT community, so it didn’t matter what color you are or where you came from. We would randomly send out invitations on LinkedIn and MeetUp.com, and that’s how we started to develop this app idea!
Antoinette: In this group, one of the developers had a friend who owned party busses, and we thought it was a really cool idea. My husband and I kind of looked at each other and said, “Hey, let’s invest in that!” That didn’t necessarily go the way we anticipated so two years ago my husband decided, “I’m just going to do this on my own!” We purchased our first party bus, a 14 passenger party bus, and it was successful! It was constantly going every weekend, we couldn’t get it to stop.
We are now up to four vehicles in our fleet: three of them are party busses and one of them is a Mercedes-Benz Limo Sprinter.
Did you always know you wanted to create a family business?
Gary: We’re still in the IT industry, but we have an entrepreneurial mindset. Growing up, we did not come from a wealthy neighborhood in New Jersey, but we always had the idea to want more. From my father being in the construction industry to being a commercial fisherman, there was always a hustle mentality: you got to go get it because no one’s going to give it to you. So I always had this mindset to strive for more. When me and my wife first got together, we said one day we’ll have our own business and build our empire for our kids. One of the main things I’ve always wanted to do is if I pass on, to have something to give to them that they can take over and continue running. The first graduation we did as a business was our kids’. The first prom we did was our kids’. They were actually our first clients!
What are the events and services you do?
Antoinette: We get a lot of wine tours, that’s a huge seller. If the customers can go to multiple wineries in a day, then they’re loving it! We do quite a few weddings, I think they’re so fancy and so beautiful, and to have this awesome transportation for it is great! We do birthdays, proms, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and tacky light tours during the holidays.
Gary: From Black Friday to New Years Day, tacky light season is in full effect. Sunday through Sunday, everyday of the week, my vehicles are up and rolling. Whether you’re going to Richmond, Hanover County, Manassas, where they do festivals of light shows, we’re everywhere!
What is the most rewarding thing about owning this business?
Gary: The most rewarding thing for me is being able to give back to the community of Fredericksburg and provide employment. I do enjoy getting behind the wheel, but also being able to learn more about the community and support different organizations, which is why we joined the Chamber of Commerce. A lot of chamber members do give back through time or donations.
Antoinette: We participated in Night To Shine and that brought tears to my eyes. That was the most amazing thing that we could have done for the community, to provide them with this transportation just to give them that experience, which on any given day they would have never done. To be able to give them a ride on this vehicle with the music and the lights and to watch them dance and smile, was very rewarding.
That’s what’s so special about a business like this, you’re there for all the big moments in people’s lives!
Gary: Especially in 2020, the graduations were very different. I felt that the kids and parents needed something. The seniors of 2020 lost everything, they didn’t have graduation and they didn’t have prom. One of the things I came up with was a mobile prom. It was very intimate with just the people in their home, but it was beautiful. We picked them up at their house and the daughter was very shocked, it was a full surprise! We had fine dining staging on the vehicle with steak, crab cakes, salad, and sparkling water in wine glasses. They got to dance on the bus and I took them on a ride to Washington, D.C. We took them on a tour of the monuments, they got to take some photos, and then we brought them back. They still had a prom and it was worth every moment. You have to take something so negative like COVID-19 and try to turn it into a positive.
April 17, 2021 | Madison Ghent | Colette Arnold
Colette Arnold’s love for vintage fashion traces back to her childhood. For her, it’s about wearing something one of a kind to perfectly and uniquely express yourself, no matter what the occasion. Madison Ghent, her vintage clothing business, began five years ago and lives in the Fredericksburg Antique Mall at 925 Caroline Street. We had the opportunity to interview Colette about her fashion philosophy, acquiring process, and pop-up shops.
When did your passion for vintage clothing begin? How did it lead you to where you are today as the owner of a vintage clothing store?
Colette: I started my interest in vintage clothing back when I was a teenager in high school. I’ve always loved second-hand fashion and the idea of having really colorful, standout pieces that no one else had, so I didn’t look like the girl next store. That’s where it really started, and from my love of vintage back then, I always thought it would be great to have my own business selling the same type of products: colorful, unique, eclectic, things that stood out. I knew I wanted to do something that allowed me the creativity to determine my own journey. I started Madison Ghent in 2016 and I’m celebrating five years this month! I am very happy to be part of Fredericksburg’s fashion community. It’s also very exciting when our customer fashionistas share pictures of themselves wearing their Madison Ghent outfits on social media. I love posting their photos on Instagram (@MadisonGhent), Facebook(@MadisonGhentShop), and Twitter (@MadisonGhent).
Congratulations! Where does the name ‘Madison Ghent’ come from?
Colette: I’m originally from Norfolk, Virginia and there’s a beautiful community in Norfolk called Ghent, so that’s where the ‘Ghent’ part comes from. I’ve always loved that community, so I wanted to add that as part of the name. Madison is derived from the meaning ‘gift of God’ and I feel like this opportunity to have a business is truly a gift.
Can you walk through the process of how you acquire new pieces? What do you have your eye out for?
Colette: My buying process is searching second-hand stores, estate sales, I travel quite a bit throughout the country and abroad, and everywhere I go I’m always looking for colorful pieces that are really unique. The nature of vintage clothing is clothing that’s 20 years or older, and when you think about that, it’s going to be a rare find to find something that no one else has. That’s something that I think my customers really enjoy.
You take Madison Ghent as a pop-up shop to different locations and events, correct?
Colette: I like to do pop-up shops in the Northern Virginia area and also in my hometown of Norfolk. What I found, because I’m a small one person business, is you want to get as much exposure as you can. I try to do that with social media, but pop-up shops really allow me to have that kind of exposure and have a broader reach. One of the things I really enjoy doing, whether it’s social media or meeting customers in person, I always like to point them back to Fredericksburg. I like them to know that there is a stand alone store that they can come to and have the experience of perusing things that are hand-picked, curated, in great condition, and very stylish!
What does fashion mean to you?
Colette: Fashion, to me, means a visual expression of your personality. It’s what you want to present to the world: the different textures, the colors, the versatility in how you want to look. With vintage clothing, you can get a piece that’s 1940s and mix and match it with something that’s 1980s or 1970s. You start with two one of a kind looks, and you combine them and get a completely new one of a kind look. People like the eclectic nature that allows them to really express themselves in a different way.
What do you enjoy most about being a business owner in Fredericksburg? Especially being right smack dab in the middle of Caroline Street?
Colette: I really enjoy Fredericksburg because when I think ‘Fredericksburg’, I think ‘friendly.’ When I came here to this location at the Fredericksburg Antique Mall five years ago, I was welcomed by the owner’s of the building and the other vendors. Customers welcomed me and showed excitement for the products that I have. This downtown area, being in the heart of downtown historic Fredericksburg, is really just welcoming. That coupled with the fact that Fredericksburg offers art, great food, tours, and lots of activities for families, those are the kinds of things that are a major draw for me in being here, and that’s what really excites me!
April 21, 2021 | Casey’s | David Bess and Alex Casey
Alex Casey and David Bess met just before the pandemic’s world-wide shutdown. Alex was a chef in Washington, D.C, and David had just closed his Richmond restaurant after 14 years of service. David saw Alex’s talent and passion right away, and though they barely knew each other, approached him with the idea to open a restaurant. Alex had one request: it had to be in Fredericksburg, his hometown. Casey’s opened January 29, 2021 and has plans to stick around the neighborhood for generations to come. We had the opportunity to interview Alex and David about their passion for food , the importance of community, and their dreams for the future of Casey’s.
Alex, where did your passion for food come from? How did you get into cooking?
Alex: I got into cooking coming out of high school. I’d come home from school and Mom and Dad weren’t there so I’d have to whip something up from the fridge. Most of the time it was just sandwiches, but it evolved and I started embracing the traditions and family gatherings where I’d make a side dish or a casserole. That was how I got my foot in the door, but it wasn’t really until I went to school and got a job up in the city when I really fell in love with it and enjoyed the passion, energy, and the hustle.
While I was in D.C, I went to an art institute in Rosslyn. Out of there I got a job at a very high volume restaurant, which was a great foundation for me. It taught me all aspects of a restaurant- especially how to adapt quickly. Going up to the city was an amazing experience, but it’s even more beautiful for me to come back to my hometown and share it with my family and friends. That’s what cooking is, it’s more than just food, it’s bringing people together.
David, can you share your experience in the restaurant industry?
David: My experience and passion for hospitality and service came from frequenting restaurants as a boy with my mom in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Virginia. I quickly discovered I wanted to go into the hospitality industry and take care of people and the community. As Chef Alex just said, food brings people together, and it’s an awesome opportunity to see people come together and put a smile on their face. You get instant gratification as soon as they leave the restaurant and they’re shaking your hand and smiling. It’s never goodbye, it’s always, “see you soon!” That’s what Casey’s is.
How did you decide to start a restaurant together?
David: I met Chef Alex a year ago in January 2020 and I quickly saw his talent. When I had the opportunity to be in D.C., I was always searching for the “one chef.” I told him, “If you ever want to start a restaurant, let me know!” and he looked at me like I was crazy. Two weeks after the pandemic hit, Chef Alex came to me and said, “Ok, tell me about this restaurant idea. BUT, I have one request: we go back to my hometown, Fredericksburg.” That’s how we started!
Casey’s serves up “American fare” cuisine. What’s the inspiration behind that?
Alex: I didn’t want to be stuck to a specific cuisine. I love to use all types of ingredients and all flavors, that’s cooking to me. Traditional American is built off of different cultures and different traditions.
David: This country was founded by immigrants, it’s a blend of different cultures, and that’s truly American food. When we wanted this concept to come alive, we decided on American cuisine because America is built on flavors as well as diverse cultures. Hence, the “traditional” American cuisine. That’s Casey’s. All flavors. All cultures.
What would you like to see for Casey’s in the next 5-10 years?
David: Our mission is to be involved in the community. We want Casey’s to be a beacon of the neighborhood, not just an eatery or a bar. We want people in the neighborhood to be proud of this restaurant, to have family traditions here, and we’d like to be a part of their family. We want memorable experiences to start at Casey’s and become traditions.
People often ask us about these empty frames on the wall. If you look at the people around you at the dinner table, that’s the memory that you should remember forever. You can put a piece of that memory up in one of our frames.
Now for the MOST important question, what is your favorite thing on the menu?
Alex: The FredVegas! I love buffalo chicken, it hits home every time, it’s very nostalgic for me. Right now the scallops are also one of my favorites. We take scallops and we smoke them until they start to caramelize and turn super dark, which sweetens up the scallop. We pan roast them after with an Israeli couscous, bacon, tomato, mushroom, and parmesan cheese. It’s a top seller for our dinner crowd!
April 28, 2020 | PONSHOP | Gabriel and Scarlett Pons
Scarlett and Gabriel Pons have been a part of the downtown Fredericksburg community for over 15 years. They’ve watched downtown revitalize and evolve, all while being residents and business owners. Their art gallery and studio, PONSHOP, showcases both their work, and the work of other artists who aim to turn their craft into a career. We had the opportunity to talk with them about their dedication to the community, their passion for art, and how things have changed since COVID.
Where did this idea for a gallery come from? Did you always know you wanted to turn your passions for art into a business?
Gabriel: Scarlett and I had a shared art studio at LibertyTown Arts Workshop from 2005-2010 and we knew that we would have to eventually raise the bar and bring our business to main street. That forced us to improve the level of our craft as artists as well as be entrepreneurs.
Scarlett: We saw an opportunity downtown. You have to picture downtown about 11 years ago, before we started to have a revival. When we got to know downtown better we immediately thought there was so much opportunity here and a niche for what we’re doing. We also wanted to be a space that would invite other artists that weren’t just hobbyists, but people trying to turn their art form into a career. It has worked out so great over the years because we’ve made relationships with these likeminded people who take creativity and turn it into a business.
How did both of you get into art?
Gabriel: We both went into Architecture School at Virginia Tech and that was deﬁnitely a foundation. Before college I enjoyed art and creativity, but I never aimed for that. I was drawn to architecture simply because I was enamored with drawings and model-making. Through those years in college it really opened up our eyes in terms of creativity and design. Halfway through school I started to wonder, “What would it take to be a painter?” Slowly that became its own activity parallel to the architectural profession.
Scarlett: For me, I always enjoyed art since a very young age, but never knew it was something you could pursue. It never crossed my mind to be an artist. I ended up in architecture school because I had a great teacher that asked me what I wanted to do. It was my Junior year and I had no idea. He knew I had an interest in art so he suggested I do architecture. Architecture school really laid the foundation to just be creative. At some point we just realized, “Oh! We can do this! We can do art professionally!”
You mentioned that you sell your own art and ceramics as well as the work of other artists. What do you look for in a product or in an artist that would potentially be featured in PONSHOP?
Gabriel: One word that comes to mind is innovation, meaning the artist’s work is something that impresses us and is new and exciting. We also consider how invested the artist is. Is it just a weekend deal, something casual, or are they taking steps to get to that next level of professionalism? We look at potential artist’s social media to see how they are presenting their work (and themselves) to the public. Finally, it’s looking at the work and asking if it ﬁts in the family that we’ve built up as an ensemble of work. How does it compliment the shop or push things forward?
How many artists do you feature in your store at one time?
Scarlett: Around 20. We rotate artists throughout the year. We always have a focus on people who are making locally in Virginia, but we do branch out across the U.S. from there. Unless we’re doing a monthly ﬁne art show, then we’ll bring in another 20 or 30 people.
Can you talk about the different classes and events that you do?
Gabriel: The most popular class through the years is our Skate to Create class: spray painting skateboards. I’ve been doing an Intro to Street Art class where kids get to use spray paint in a relatively controlled environment. Over the years I started to do a comic book workshop for kids which involves drawing, writing, and storytelling. Over the past year, we’ve been doing virtual classes and that’s one class that works well in the format of a virtual session. It’s exciting because even though we might not be in person together, there’s so much pop culture and comic book lore to get the kids interested, even if they’re as young as 7 or as old as 17. We can all come together and share that love and help that inform their creativity.
Scarlett: Typically we host a variety of events, everything from big community events like First Friday and Art Attack to hosting something more intimate. In the past we’ve done jewelry trunk show events to highlight individual artists.
Gabriel: We’ve partnered with the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board for an annual exhibit for Mental Health month in May. We’ve been hosting that event since 2011 and it includes upwards of 30 or 50 artists throughout the region to bring awareness to mental health. We also did shows for the Fredericksburg Skatepark Project where we painted skateboards to raise awareness and funds for their initiatives.
What is the most rewarding part about what you do?
Scarlett: One of the most rewarding parts is being able to make something and put it right out on the shelf of my own store to get feedback from the public. That, for the last 10 years, has been so rewarding. I have some things that start out as one thing then turn into something else because someone looks at it and thinks, “Actually, this is how I’d use that!” It’s a very consistent exchange of ideas, even though the public isn’t always aware that they’re participating in this experiment with me. I’ve really missed all that interaction this past year. It made me realize there is so much value in having a storefront, because it is your connection to the community. My work doesn’t even exist until it gets put out into the public and I can see how people interact with it.
Given that you’ve had your business downtown for many years, what does the Fredericksburg community mean to the both of you as business owners?
Gabriel: Over the past year I think it’s been more apparent than ever that the Fredericksburg community is a very tight and a solid family. Everyone has really stepped up in terms of relationships and support of the shop. It came from a lot of fans near and far that we hadn’t seen in ages, but they came out in one way or another to support us. Even if it was just reaching out or stopping by, it was a great thing. In the 15 years we’ve been here, Fredericksburg is ofﬁcially home.
Scarlett: We’re a city that acts like a small town. Once you spend some time here you realize there is a very small-town feeling about the place because it’s a very tight knit community. Especially coming off of last year in 2020, Fredericksburg means support. As soon as it was announced that Virginia was going into lockdown, the ﬁrst thing that happened was we had so many people reach out to us and ask, “What can we do for you guys? How can we support you?” It was so touching. In the midst of everything happening in everyone’s lives, people were concerned with all the small businesses on main street. When we opened the store we were looking for a community to be a part of and a community to help grow. That was completely showcased last year. For me, the Fredericksburg community means love!
May 5, 2021 | Renee’s Crepes and Cakes | Irene and Frankie Zavolakis
Irene Psaras Zavolakis got her start in the restaurant industry at the ripe age of 11, helping serve tables at her parent’s Greek restaurant, the Parthenon. The Parthenon has been a staple of the Fredericksburg community since 1984, and when Irene decided to go her own way (though she still helps out at the Parthenon!), she moved two doors down to open Renee’s Crepes and Cakes. Inspired by their family vacations to Greece, Renee and her husband Frankie serve up sweet and savory crepes to bring a piece of Europe to Fredericksburg, Virginia.
How did you enter the restaurant industry? What made you decide to open your own restaurant?
Irene: It’s definitely because of my parents that I’m in the restaurant business. After high school, I became a dental hygienist for Dr. Rose for about two years. I went to travel for a little bit and when I came back I decided to open a restaurant. There weren’t really any crepes in Fredericksburg and we wanted to choose something different and unique! I have no regrets! I started at the Parthenon then came here. My husband too, he was a firefighter in Greece, but he also had a deli/coffee shop. So we both had the same path.
What is the most rewarding thing about what you do, now that you’re 5 years in?
Irene: It took us a little bit to get to where we needed to be. It’s a hard business and people don’t know about crepes, but after the second year it started to get really busy. We’re good at what we do, so we just want our customers happy and satisfied before they leave.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
Irene: My biggest inspiration is my dad. He’s on point from 5 o’clock in the morning to 9 o’clock at night, Monday through Saturday. Even Sunday he’s in there, imagine that! All my parents know is work, that’s how they were brought up, and that’s how they brought us up. I started waiting tables in 1991 at the Parthenon when I was 11 years old. I still remember the first soup I dropped on a lady!
Who is Renee?
Irene: I am! I was actually going to name the restaurant ‘Crazy Crepes,’ but you know we’re a little cuckoo anyways, way have a lot of wild in us, so we went with ‘Renee’s Crepes and Cakes.’
Did Frankie know how to make crepes before or was that a skill he had to master?
Irene: We just threw ourselves into it! He actually wanted us to open a Greek restaurant, but since we’re so close to our parents we decided to do something different. But we practiced a lot. It took us 20 months to open, but when we put our minds to something, we’ll do it. There’s certain things I don’t know how to do, but if I’m dedicated to it, I’m going to learn.
What do you and Frankie have in store for Renee’s Crepes and Cake’s future?
Irene: We want a food truck, a pop-up restaurant, or to open our own Greek restaurant somewhere!
What do you enjoy most about being part of the Fredericksburg community?
Irene: I love meeting new people, especially from out of town. We had some people stop in recently, one from Dale City and one from Woodbridge, who came just to eat crepes. Families who live in Alexandria and Richmond drive here and meet halfway. If people know about crepes, they’re going to find them, no matter how far away they are.
May 10, 2021 | Orofino | Danilo Orofino
Danilo Orofino has been serving authentic Italian dishes to downtown Fredericksburg for the past five years. After growing up and discovering his passion for food in Sicily, Danilo took a leap and moved to New York City. Nine years ago he found his way to Fredericksburg, Virginia to open his restaurant, Orofino. We had the opportunity to interview Danilo about his restaurant experiences, his love for bringing people together, and what he enjoys most about Fredericksburg.
How and when did you know you wanted to enter the restaurant industry?
Danilo: That goes all the way back to when I was little. My dream was to play soccer, every Italian boy likes to play soccer, so that was my dream all along. I remember when I was little, I used to dream about snow. In Sicily where I’m from, we hardly ever see snow. I remember being under the kitchen table with my mom, grandma, and aunts around it making fresh pasta and fresh bread. I started seeing flour come down the table and I started to dream about snow. It was then that I realized that food made me happy and made me dream, so I wanted to enter that world.
My experience began in Palermo when I was about 18 years old. I opened a coffee shop/lunch place/bar and my family members worked for me. That was the first time I really entered the restaurant world. I had that restaurant for about four years because the economy in Italy was not so great at the time. I like to work hard and I believe in myself, so I knew I couldn’t make it work. Sometimes it’s not just about yourself.
How did that experience prepare you to open and run Orofino?
Danilo: It taught me how to be understanding and analyze things properly. When I was little younger I would jump towards things and come to conclusions too quickly. I learned to put myself into someone else’s shoes. That’s why my first restaurant wasn’t a failure for me- it actually taught me a lot!
You grew up in Sicily, then moved to New York City before starting a business in Fredericksburg. Why did you choose this city to open Orofino?
Danilo: You know when things are meant to be? I believe that God works in mysterious ways. When I was in Italy, the only thing I knew about the United States was New York, the city that never sleeps. I was so excited to move there! While I was getting experience in New York, I met a gentleman who owns a few businesses around here. We became friends and that’s how I got to know Fredericksburg. In New York, I was missing the sense of family and community where everybody knows you and asks how you are. That’s how I grew up, so I felt like a part of me was missing. When I discovered Fredericksburg and saw that’s how the community is, I immediately fell in love. Now I’ve lived in Fredericksburg for nine years and have owned Orofino for five years!
My wife and I own Orofino, and everyone that works here is family. I get to spend every single day in this place with these people and they have immediately become my family. So it’s a family restaurant, both those who work here and those who come in and eat, they’re part of the family too!
What do you find most rewarding about the work that you do?
Danilo: I strongly believe that food builds relationships. When you sit at a table with someone you just met, or a date, or your family, you get to know their experiences and their personalities, and food is such a valuable part of that. It also makes you dream. In here I always hear people say, “I wish I was back in Italy!” The fact that people remember their great memories, or dream about going to Italy, makes my day.
What do you hope and plan for Orofino in the next 5-10 years?
Danilo: I’d like to explore outside of the traditional dining and day-by-day tasks. I love events: weddings, caterings, rehearsal dinners, private dinners, chef tables, wine tastings. I have always loved all of those things so I would love to get into that. I also like to bring people on Tour of Italy, which unfortunately was paused due to COVID, but I want to get back into it. Delivery and pickup became huge during COVID, so I’m going to explore that a little bit more.