Italian eatery Vescio’s is closing the family-owned business in Dinkytown after more than 60 years of welcoming students, faculty and a roster of well-known personalities on the edge of the University of Minnesota campus.
In a statement posted late Sunday on Facebook, the owners said they will be closing for good in March, noting, “All good things must come to an end.”
In 2016, Vescio’s closed its other location, in St. Louis Park, after 31 years. A Vescio’s in Burnsville that opened in 1988 closed about five years later.
“It was a hard decision for our family to make,” said Tony Vescio, who represents the fourth of five generations in his clan that have owned and operated the restaurant since 1956 at 406 14th Av. SE. “We’ve had offers and interest in buying the building for years. We accepted an offer.”
Tony Vescio said the next owner, identity undisclosed, plans to retain it as a restaurant, but he’s unsure what that motif will be.
Vescio was opened by Tony Vescio’s grandfather, Frank T. Vescio, and great-grandmother Theresa. Tony’s father, Frank C., and uncles Fred and Ron took over before Tony and sister Susan came aboard.
“And my boys, Frankie and Tanner, have worked there,” Tony Vescio said, ticking off generations that had a hand in pulling together a menu of sauce and pasta that was almost exclusively made from scratch.
Tony Vescio said that while the looming closure the weekend of March 9 has been “scary, sad and exciting,” he’s most happy for his father.
“He’s the hardest working 75-year-old guy I know,” Tony Vescio said. “Now he gets to slow down and enjoy life, but I don’t know if he knows how to slow down and relax.”
A veep, Bobby Knight and Sid
Vescio’s has long been a favorite of many notable personalities who either called the Twin Cities home or just passed through. Former Indiana University basketball coach Bobby Knight would often drop in when his Hoosiers were in town to play the Gophers. He was joined at times by Star Tribune sports columnist Sid Hartman, who regularly touted the restaurant on the radio.
Another fan of Vescio’s was former Twins standout pitcher Frank Viola, whose pasta dinners were a ritual the day before a game.
“This is exactly the kind of place I used to come to with my mom and dad when I was growing up,” Viola said in 1988, one year after he helped the Twins to a World Series title. “It’s a real friendly place.”
Others to come through the door included former Vice President Walter Mondale, New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and television personality Mario Lopez.
Tony Vescio said he has a tinge of regret that he didn’t keep items around for his high-profile patrons to sign, but added, “We give them their space, leave them alone, say hello and let them eat. Hopefully, they appreciated that.”
For any lovebirds willing to accept a serving of melancholy this week, Vescio’s has a two-person special whipped up for Wednesday, the restaurant’s final Valentine’s Day welcoming customers.
Despite the closures, Vescio’s still has a presence in the Twin Cities. It has had a permanent stand since the mid-1970s at the State Fair near the ramp leading into the grandstand, and there’s every reason to believe it will be open again come late August for the 12-day run of the fair.
"We just got a call from Fred Vescio saying they intend on being at the fair,” said Dennis Larson, who oversees food and beverage operations at the fair.
Larson said that occupying a permanent structure at the fair — Vescio’s is one of six currently — is desirable among vendors, mainly because it means less worry about making the cut year in and year out.
“Typically, if you’re in, you’re in” for the long haul, Larson said.