Home ‘I didn’t know I had so much love for what I created’: Customers happy Scotto’s back in business

‘I didn’t know I had so much love for what I created’: Customers happy Scotto’s back in business

Rebecca Barnabi
Scotto’s is open for business at 1412 W. Broad Street, Waynesboro. Photo by Rebecca J. Barnabi.

The COVID-19 pandemic created many changes in our everyday lives.

Doctor’s appointments were done by telehealth, business meetings by Zoom and eating out meant curbside pickup or delivery only.

Some restaurants thrived, but many closed.

Scotto’s of Waynesboro, in business since 1989, thrived during the pandemic. In fact, business increased in 2021 by 12.5 percent.

However, staffing challenges caught up with the business, as it affected and is still affecting many businesses now.

“COVID definitely left a mark in our lives,” said owner/operator Tommy Scotto.

Through his travels, Scotto, 65, said he has seen staffing challenges affecting businesses in Italy, Mexico and Argentina, including at airports.

Before COVID, Scotto’s employed 23 individuals, but during the pandemic was reduced to only nine. Meanwhile, business increased.

“I was very grateful,” Scotto said. But the small staff could not handle the increased business.

In May 2021, Scotto had to make the heartbreaking decision to close his restaurant at 1412 West Broad Street. He was experiencing a lot of back pain and doctors told him he would end up in a wheelchair. He had surgery in March 2023 and is doing better now.

While closed, former customers frequently expressed to Scotto their sadness that his restaurant was no longer open. He said that they told him if they chose to eat out, they were going to eat out, but with his restaurant closed, they had to eat elsewhere.

Scotto said he did not know before May 2021 the seeds of love he had planted within his customers.

“I created a family, a huge family,” he said.

And that family is now back together because Scotto’s reopened in June 2023. Scotto, who has lived in a house near the restaurant since 1990, said he was excited to reopen.

The hours are the same, but the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays and the menu has fewer items.

“People accept it good,” Scotto said of the menu changes. He said customers are just glad he is open again.

The restaurant is also still waiting to reobtain its ABC license to sell alcohol. For the time being, wine and beer are unavailable.

What is available is free delivery for orders placed on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“We just started to promote a little bit more the delivery,” Scotto said.

Another change when Scotto reopened in June was the increased price of food that all restaurants and grocery stores have had to pass on to customers. Before he closed in 2021, Scotto would spend from $8,000 to $10,000 per week just to keep the restaurant stocked up on staple menu items. Now, his producers have told him to expect to spend $10,000 to $15,000 per week on food.

Scotto is fine with the minimum wage increasing from $7.35/hour to $12/hour, but did not want to have to raise meal prices to compensate for the increased cost of food.

“I adjusted the way that I could to serve,” Scotto said.

Scotto, who was born in Naples, Italy, is still “very grateful” to be back in business.

“I didn’t know that I had so much love for what I created,” he said of his customers.

Scotto has customers who tell him their first date was at his restaurant and they return to celebrate milestone anniversaries.

“And that’s what’s bringing love back to me now. It’s a beautiful story, and I’m not making it up. I’m just living it.”

Scotto’s is open Mondays and Wednesdays to Saturdays 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.

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Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.