The pandemic has been tough on small businesses, particularly restaurants.
A popular East End eatery has adjusted to accommodate its hungry patrons. And throughout it all, the owners have kept their sense of humour and community spirit.
Melissa and Kevin Narduzzi, owners of Narduzzi’s Family Plaza Restaurant, changed the way they did business with the initial COVID-19 lockdown last spring.
“We didn’t close at all,” said Melissa. “We switched our hours and switched to take out and delivery, immediately.
“It was a big change for us because we were a six-in-the-morning breakfast place and we switched to 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. to keep our lunch crowd and try to gain a supper crowd. Without letting them come in, it’s tricky. It’s hard to do.”
After that first lockdown ended and customers were allowed to be seated, Narduzzi's largely kept the new hours.
“That worked for us for the 17 weeks, until we were able to open again,” Narduzzi said. “When we reopened, we kept the hours of the COVID (lockdown). We did flip flop our restaurant into an 11-7 and just went back to full days on Saturdays and Sundays for breakfast and lunch.”
The change in hours led to some menu tweaks. With a lockdown back in place, Narduzzi’s is back to takeout and delivery only again.
“We’re all about comfort food. You don’t stop here when you are on your way home from the gym,” she said with a laugh. “Right now, people are at home and they want to feel good.
“I think we’ve sold more butter tarts during COVID than since the day the restaurant opened. That gives you an idea about comfort.”
Other items have also increased in popularity with customers.
“Our pizza really started to take off a lot more with the hours change. It used to be only available in the evenings on Fridays and Saturdays — the only evenings we were open,” Narduzzi said. “It’s given a lot of other people a chance to try our pizza and get to love it.
“We’ve brought in chicken wings and they seem to be a big hit. We kept our fish and chip Friday strong. We just switched to delivery and take out.
“And there are people who still call who really want the breakfast poutine no matter what.”
From specialty sandwiches, burgers and unique items such as the taco perogie bowl, they take pride in providing quality meals.
“It’s homemade, comfort food, and large portions,” she said. “You’re not hungry when you’re finished.”
During the first wave of COVID-19 restrictions, the couple made some major changes to the interior of the restaurant.
“It keeps you busy, it keeps you positive. You have to do something,” she said. “Not every day was busy. It’s good to have a project while you are waiting for the phone to ring.
“We always needed a new floor. It’s so clean now. It was Colour Magic in South Porcupine that did it for us. We shopped local on our floor and they did a great job.
“Everything else, my husband did. Repainted the walls. Repainted the booths. We tried to keep on budget and make our stuff look new. We didn’t replace the tables but replaced the table tops and repainted the legs.”
Renovations will continue with the latest lockdown.
“We’re going to start repainting the fireplace,” Narduzzi said. “I think we were joking when we said ‘if we ever shutdown again.’ But here we are.
“So, I’m going to call his bluff and he’s painting the fireplace now.’
Not only have the renovations improved the appearance, it's also reduced opportunities to spread the virus.
“It’s a lot brighter. We decluttered a lot things, because people want to touch things,” she explained. “We’re better off not having it. We had a lot of antiques and books, so people would grab a book while having a coffee. We’re not sharing books now. So, we got rid of that whole section. We’re changing so people aren’t touching stuff.”
The phone orders have kept the restaurant going, and delivery in the East End has been popular.
“We ask people to order by phone,” she said. “We have limited staff, so we’re not always on Facebook.
“Some people like to call at noon, let us know they want fish and chips at 5 p.m. and they pick it up.”
There are also customers who look to brighten the day of a shut-in friend or relative.
“Some people call, prepay and send it to someone else to cheer up someone who is home alone or stuck in the house,” Narduzzi said.
“We have one lady from Vancouver who orders fish and chips for her dad every Friday. Stuff like that is nice.”
The couple is amazed by the support the restaurant has received throughout the pandemic.
“We’ve been blessed,” Narduzzi said. “South Porcupine and Porcupine, and our Schumacher friends, have supported us. It’s unbelievable.
“The East End has been amazing. The customers who supported us continued to support us with the takeout and delivery.”
Narduzzi’s Family Plaza Restaurant is located at 4800 Hwy. 101 E., in the Porcupine Mall parking lot.
It is open for takeout and delivery Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Call 705-235-2777. Their menu can be found on Facebook. After the lockdown ends, check its Facebook page for dining hours.