Above: Vittorio D’Urzo, owner of Trattoria Da Vittorio
Growing up, Vittorio D’Urzo always dreamed of opening a restaurant. But it wasn’t just his passion for cooking that drew him to the industry, it was also his love for people.
“I’m a people person,” D’Urzo said. “I love to really interact with people and that is a great quality for anyone who wants to be in the hospitality business.”
In 2013, D’Urzo opened Trattoria Da Vittorio, a restaurant which pays homage to his Southern Italian roots. It features homestyle Italian dishes, regional specialities, and age-old family recipes including gluten-free eggplant parmigiana, homemade lasagna with a decadent meat sauce, and Calabrese boneless beef short ribs.
The restaurateur, who grew up in Calabria—the Southern region of Italy near Sicily which spans the “toe” of the country’s boot shaped peninsula—moved to San Francisco in the early 2000s to join his family.
Once in the United States, he worked his way through the industry as a server and manager at several Bay Area restaurants including a stint at Piazza D’Angelo, a Mill Valley Calabrian restaurant started by his uncle. However, it took years to finally open his own establishment.
In the years since, the restauranteur’s hard work has paid off. D’Urzo and his restaurant have been featured in several newspapers and media sites, including an episode of Travel Channel’s Food Paradise.
But aside from his restaurant, one of D’ Urzo’s greatest accomplishments is his catering business, which offers dishes straight from the restaurant menu for weddings and events of any size.
Whether it’s a 10 or 500 person affair, D’Urzo comes prepared with staff or he contracts out the work to people he’s worked with in the past who are looking for extra cash. Although he’s had six wedding cancellations amid the pandemic, he’s already started getting calls for next year.
During the pandemic, the restaurateur has faced some obstacles. He closed down for two weeks to regroup and gave paid vacation to his roughly 20-employee team. D’Urzo later reopened for pick-up and delivery orders as well as outdoor dining which is sometimes difficult given the fog and bad weather in the West Portal area.
“It’s been very hard especially mentally,” D’Urzo said. “I’m happy to pay my bills, to pay my guys.”
When asked how he differentiates from the trove of other delicious Italian restaurants in a city renowned for its Italian cooking, it all comes down to the service and ambiance. Many of the dishes often look or even taste the same, although he does make the effort to sample the food everyday to ensure it’s up to par.
Coming from a customer service background, D’Urzo also stresses the importance of customer relationships. He has customers who have visited his restaurant as a young couple and now, they’re married with kids. But no matter their history, everyone is treated equally, and more importantly, like family.
“My best friends are my customers, my family are my customers,” D’Urzo said. “That’s my life.”
For D’Urzo owning a restaurant isn’t just a job, it’s a choice of life. And, while he has a lot to brag about, he doesn’t get caught up in the competition.
“I don’t compare myself with anyone,” D’Urzo said. “I just do my daily job with a lot of passion.”