PHOENIX — Opening a restaurant is no easy task on its own. Now, add in a global pandemic and a forced shutdown and that challenge becomes even tougher.
"The last couple of months have been extremely stressful," said Chef Gio Osso, who opened Virtu Honest Craft in 2013 and his latest concept, Pizzeria Virtu, in February, a mere weeks before efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 began in Arizona.
"We were just starting to get our feet under us and, ya know, to have the rug pulled out from under us was really difficult," he said.
Ultimately, Osso decided to temporarily close both of his restaurants in March, a decision plenty of restaurants also made at the time. Others reconfigured their operations to handle takeout and carry-out orders.
For Osso, however, the decision was a personal one.
"The safety of our guests, our staff," he said. "For me personally, I have a four-year-old daughter that has asthma. With the unknowns that were at that time, I just felt it more comfortable for myself than to risk being exposed to this virus and then bring it home to my daughter cause that would have been devastating."
Now that restaurants have been allowed to reopen their dining rooms, Chef Osso is cautiously reopening both of his restaurants making sure he's following the CDC-recommended guidelines.
"We have to pay the rent. I have to open. There is no choice at this point in time," he said.
While he knows the dine-in experience may not quite be the same as before, he hopes customers return for the same food experience they've had before and to introduce them to his latest concept.
"It’s a Neapolitan pizzeria, ya know, 12-inch pizzas made the VPN way," he said of Pizzeria Virtu. "We are changing the menu like we do at Virtu. It changes to seasonality and things we want to experience with. So its not just the same menu all the time. We like to have fun with the food."
You can view the menu, here.
It's also a slight return to home for him. Pizzeria Virtu replaces Grazie, which closed in January after 18 years in business, as reported by the Arizona Republic. But, it was also the first restaurant that Chef Osso worked at in Phoenix, 20 years ago when he moved to the Valley of the Sun, he said.
IF YOU GO:
6952 E Main St, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Virtu Honest Craft
3701 N Marshall Way, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
We're Open, Arizona: We know this is a tough time for a lot of people in our community, including local restaurants and businesses. As local spots continue to serve takeout, look for ways to safely do business, and give back to our community, we want to share their stories. Visit abc15.com/open or email us at OpenInAZ@abc15.com.