Barb Miller wants Avanti’s Italian Restaurant to be a place where people have a sense of family and belonging.
For regular patron and City of Verona resident Bob Radford, that’s exactly what it feels like.
Three months ago, he discovered the restaurant’s Monday “Happy Hour,” and comes back each week for “the best deal in town.”
“It’s the perfect neighborhood place,” he told the Press Monday evening.
It’s been the “neighborhood place” for two decades this year. It was opened by Mike Trinellia in 1999, in a home built in the 1860’s along Main Street. At the time, said Miller, now the co-owner and manager, the restaurant consisted of only the dining room and kitchen. It’s since grown, as the bar was added more than a decade ago, with pieces of the bar being brought to the restaurant from the Chicago area.
Miller started managing Avanti’s in September 2014 – she said she was hesitant at first, but was convinced by one of the bartenders to take it over, as he wanted to move on.
“I decided that I’d like to try it,” she said. “I had said I could help out, I could be a hostess at times, and I’d run the checkbook and pay the bills.”
Miller said she and her staff try to create the family atmosphere with good food — recipes passed down from Miller’s co-owner Vito Cerniglia’s Sicilian great-great-grandparents — drinks made from scratch and being personable with their customers, especially their regulars, she said.
“We wanted it to be a place where it felt like family to customers, and that our employees felt like family,” she said. “We’re a small restaurant, and we have a lot of regulars at this point that we really enjoy.”
In the future, Miller said, she’d like to see the restaurant navigate what’s often a “fickle” industry.
“We just want to continue to serve the community and be successful,” she said.
Spencer Schultz, a bartender at Avanti’s, said that he loves taking care of the customers and creating an experience for people that holds a lot of “meaning and significance.”
Schultz said he finds a lot of the restaurant’s niche feel coming from the historic look of the building, with its teal ornamented ceiling, weathered wood and exposed brick, as well as the fact that everything in the restaurant is homemade.
“I love what I do, so I don’t consider it work here,” he said. “Everyone loves and hates their family, but this family we have here is pretty nice.”