Family corners the restaurant market

By April Hall

The building at the corner of Caroline and Meigs streets in Rochester, N.Y., has been home to a number of establishments bearing the name “Dicky’s”: Dicky’s Restaurant, Dicky’s Bar and, now, Dicky’s Corner Pub.

Richard “Dicky” Savaggio, the namesake, first opened a restaurant on the first floor in 1949. But the building’s history is far longer.

The structure started as a hospital and became a bar at the turn of the 20th century. In 1922, Italian immigrant couple Michele (an Italian version of Michael) and Francesca Savaggio purchased the building. The bar remained and the rest of the building was rented as apartments. During Prohibition, the bar became “a cigar shop,” which, according to local newspapers, was raided more than once for having alcohol on the premises.

When Dicky opened his restaurant in the space in 1949, Prohibition was long gone, but regulations required a restaurant to be open for two years before it could secure a liquor license. He did in 1951, and alcohol has been sold there ever since.

Dicky operated the restaurant until the 1970s, when he passed it on to his daughter Fran, who ran it from 1978 to 1991, and his son, Michael. Michael and his wife, Judith, ran the tavern from 1991 until 2006, when Judith passed away.

Judith was “the honcho of that place,” says her son Richie Savaggio. “My dad didn’t really have anything to do with [the restaurant] after my mom passed away.”

After Judith died, a string of non-family tenants operated bars or restaurants in the space, which they rented from the Savaggio family. None saw the success the Savaggio family did.

“When you live in a little community like this, if you’re not part of the neighborhood, it’s not going to work,” says Richie, 41. In February 2017, he began resurrecting the family business on the site as Dicky’s Corner Pub. Richie teamed up with a non-family investor, Bill Pieper, to restore Dicky’s to its former glory.

“I’ve been working in a kitchen since I was 12 years old,” Richie says. “I’ve managed a few restaurants and put my energy into it.”

“We’re doing this the right way now,” Richie says. “We’re bringing the neighborhood and the family back into it. People can come in with their kids and eat, and that’s how it was when my mom was alive.”

Richie collected his mom’s old recipes and plans to follow in her footsteps. Vidalia onions used in the French onion soup will be sliced by hand, and there will be a fish fry every Friday.

What did change, though, is the number of menu offerings. Judith cooked more than 100 dishes offered on a 12-page menu that was presented in a binder.

“Yeah, we had to scale back,” Richie says. “Nobody knows to this day how my mom did that binder menu — it’s crazy!”

Along with familiar menu items, patrons will find the original mahogany back bar that was imported from Germany by the first barkeep more than 100 years ago.

While no other family member will be working at the pub, Richie says the Savaggios support the venture. There was a soft launch in September, and the grand re-opening was in October.

“My dad is beyond happy to see his son have it back in the family,” Richie says.  

Copyright 2018 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

                                                   

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March/April 2018

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