Small Biz Startup: Vito’s Gourmet

Todd Tarzia, owner of Vito's Gourmet on Watertown's Public Square, opened the restaurant to offer something new and exciting to Watertown's downtown. Photo by Norm Johnston/NNY Business.

THE INITIAL IDEA

To bring new life to downtown Watertown’s Public Square, Todd V. Tarzia decided to renovate a space just outside of the Paddock Arcade into a hip sandwich shop. With its bright colors, huge chalkboard menus and plentiful seating, Vito’s Gourmet, Mr. Tarzia’s shop, might just be the injection of life that the Square needed.

TARGET CLIENTELE

Working professionals who are looking for something quick and homemade for breakfast or lunch at a reasonable price. Also, any coffee connoisseur looking for a handcrafted latte, tea or coffee.

“My goal is to move people in and out and still give them a quality product that’s made fresh,” Mr. Tarzia said. “You can pour your own soup, grab a salad and you’re ready to go.”

THE JOURNEY

With a mix of merchants occupying the Paddock Arcade, like the always-popular Paddock Club, Paddock Art and Antiques and the Beauty Bar, Mr. Tarzia struck while the iron was hot and became part of the revival of the downtown landmark.

“[The Paddock Arcade] is starting to get a more upscale, city vibe,” he said.
Mr. Tarzia grew up visiting stores in the downtown area and said that the business outlook for the area is “trending upward.”

“There are still a lot of people who come in and say they didn’t know we’re here,” he said. “We still have a long way to go.”

That problem is quickly changing. Word of Vito’s Gourmet spread quickly in the weeks following its late November opening. When Mr. Tarzia brought in Trudy M. Dean, who previously operated the Paddock Coffee House, local coffee lovers rejoiced. Vito’s Gourmet now offers more than 10 gourmet sandwiches, a selection of homemade soups, salads and fresh fruit alongside the coffee bar where Ms. Dean handcrafts brewed and flavored coffees, teas, lattes, cappuccinos and specialty drinks.

“I’m trying to jack it up in terms of what you get for flavor,” Mr. Tarzia said of his culinary offerings. He hopes the restaurant will appeal to downtown customers by offering zesty gourmet sandwiches they can’t get elsewhere, and allowing them to get their food quickly if they need to scoot back to work.
Vito is Mr. Tarzia’s middle name, inspired by his late grandfather, Vito Tarzia, a second-generation Italian who planted his roots in Watertown. Mr. Tarzia modeled the deli’s service style off a similar business he owned in the 1990s when he lived in Tampa, Fla.

“I cook a lot at home and am never making the same thing twice, always tweaking it,” Mr. Tarzia said. “But I’m going to keep some of the same basic things on the menu for customers.”

His 1,500-square-foot restaurant seats more than 20 people.

IN FIVE YEARS

Mr. Tarzia is leasing the space for Vito’s from Watertown investment group Watertown RX LLC, managed by Donald G.M. Coon III, who also manages the properties in the adjoining portion of the Paddock Arcade.

“The arcade is kind of an incubator for new businesses,” Mr. Coon said. “It took time to fill the spaces up, but we want to have ten ongoing business in there.”
With the initial success, and crowds that packed Vito’s during its opening days,

Mr. Coon is optimistic for the future of the Arcade, and the deli.

“All things being equal, five years from now we’ll have the same tenants.”

OPEN

7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Where: Watertown
Founded:  2012
Web: www.facebook.com/vitosgourmet

— Ted Booker and Kyle R. Hayes

webserver