Natalie Victoria, co-owner of Victoria’s Ristorante and Wine Bar, shares insight into success.
507: How did you come into the restaurant business?
Natalie: While a college student I landed a job waitressing at a restaurant in Green Bay Wisconsin. Here I met the man who was to become my husband, Sid Victoria.
Sid was well established in various aspects of restaurant business. I myself was really never drawn to the kitchen; however I enjoyed the restaurant environment. The idea of “our own” restaurant appealed.
A lease was signed on June 1997. That October Victoria’s Ristorante and Wine Bar opened here in Rochester. These days I am “front of the house” while Sid is in the back providing “the eyes” that oversee all aspects of kitchen operations and maintenance, as well as regularly being engaged in hands-on cooking.
507: How would you describe the dishes on your menu?
Natalie: Menu items are very traditional Italian with classic dishes. A Southern Italy style is reflected in red sauced items; Northern in Alfredo/white sauce. Many of our dishes are named after chefs we have had in our kitchen, or family members that created the dish: Noe’s Feature (chicken or pork tenderloin based dish laden with fresh vegetables), Patron’s Creation (a vegetarian pasta), and Sophia’s Lobster Ravioli.
Seasonally, we add a “chef special selection” menu to the regular menu.
507: How to you make menu recommendations?
Natalie: Often we ask patrons if they prefer a given meat or non-meat dish as there are dishes within each category that have been long standing favorites with patrons. These included the Pollo (Chicken) Bianco, Fettuccine Della Nonna (a mixed seafood dish) and Veal Piccata. That said, often we find that people come in knowing what they are planning to order even before seeing the menu.
My personal favorite is any dish crafted with our homemade pesto sauce.
507: What is your favorite night of the week at Victoria’s?
Natalie: Definitely Saturday night! Clientele simply seem to be more relaxed and laid back on the weekend. Often families come in. It is just a time for leisurely connections between people. Guests love Tuesday night when we offer half price on bottles of wine.
507: What is one of the most enjoyable experiences you have had with a customer?
Natalie: It is so rewarding seeing return customers, be that local clientele or visitors returning to Mayo Clinic months or even years later. Simply the interpersonal connections, which happen at various levels on a daily basis, add to the enjoyment of a typical day.
There are also the daily staff interactions. I am so fortunate to have a solid, reliable staff. It allows me to go home knowing that things are in good hands back at the restaurant. I particularly enjoy mentoring the high school students we hire for dining room service. Working together, regardless of our position, allows us to run things smoothly.
507: What is the best meal/thing you have ever eaten?
Natalie: My sister-in-law’s tacos! Besides being the best tacos they are authentic. She knows her ingredients and incorporates just the right proportions.
507: Would you care to share a tip on how to run a successful restaurant?
Natalie: It certainly takes commitment; the commitment of being here every day, and well yes, sometimes “just a bit of luck.”
Indeed, Natalie has her eyes on a lot. In addition to her responsibilities at Victoria’s, three years ago she partnered with another woman to open The Tap House. Recently they hired Natalie’s sister-in-law in the kitchen where she crafts tacos.