BERLIN — Two new restaurants are planning to open on Berlin’s Main Street this June and, while their owners have similar backgrounds and goals, the two experiences offered will be “night and day different,” according to Siculi co-owner Pete Livolsi.
Siculi, a rustic Italian kitchen, and Paco’s Tex-Mex and Beyond both plan on opening for business in Berlin in mid-June. Between the two of them, the restaurants represent an overnight boom to the town’s dining industry, though neither business is worried about competition issues between themselves or other already established restaurants.
According to Pete Livolsi, Siculi will be unique enough not to step on Paco’s or any other toes in town but will contribute to Berlin’s dining appeal as a whole.
“We’re not really competitors,” he said.
Hailing from Baltimore, Pete and his wife and co-owner Jennie Livolsi admitted that their first impulse when coming to the area two years ago was to open a restaurant in a more populated area than Berlin.
“We originally thought we wanted Ocean City,” said Jennie Livolsi.
However, she explained that once the couple became familiar with the Berlin community, they decided that they would prefer the small-town charm of the area to the tourist-centric Ocean City. Additionally, the pair came to favor the more consistent Berlin over its seasonal neighbor.
“We like that it’s more year-round business,” Pete Livolsi said.
Paco’s owner Francisco “Paco” De’Paz also cited Berlin’s atmosphere as a major selling point.
“I came to visit and started scouting out the area. I fell in love with the town,” he said. “I like the charm of the neighborhood here.”
Both buildings are owned by Berlin businessman Ernest Gerardi, and the Livolsis and De’Paz are very supportive of each other’s restaurants. But beyond sharing the same landlord and street, the two restaurants are offering different experiences.
“We’re trying to start off somewhat simple,” said Pete Livolsi.
Siculi will feature an Italian-centric menu that should have a lot of familiar dishes for most people. However, Pete Livolsi asserted that Siculi will focus on more rustic and traditional cuisine that would actually be available on the Italian countryside, as opposed to much of the Americanized Italian menus that are popular in the U.S.
Paco’s will feature a more global menu, with a fusion of Mexican, Latin and American Southwest dishes as well as options that De’Paz has picked up during his time in the food industry.
“It’ll be real food that I’m bringing with me,” he promised.
While his latest experiences have been in New York and Florida, De’Paz revealed that his chef’s hat has seen a lot of traveling and he will be incorporating that diversity into his menu.
“That’s why it’s called, ‘beyond,’” he said.
As far as experience goes, both restaurants pack decades of culinary study. The Livolsis have operated close to half a dozen restaurants in the past and are familiar with Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, with Pete Livolsi having relatives back in Sicily.
“It’s in me to do this kind of restaurant,” he joked.
Jennie Livolsi felt the same.
“It’s all I’ve ever done,” she said, adding that she broke into the food industry at 13 years old and it has developed into a lifelong passion.
De’Paz is coming from a similar background having “grown up in the kitchen” before branching out into catering and cooking.
With their grand openings fast approaching, all parties are looking forward to becoming Berlin mainstays.
“I’m very happy to be a part of the business community here … I’d like to become a destination,” said De’Paz.
He went on to say that Paco’s will be taking advantage of local growers and producers for ingredients, claiming that he will be the Berlin Farmer’s market’s “best customer.”
De’Paz and the Livolsis are all eagerly anticipating becoming involved with town events like Octoberfest and the New Years’ Eve ball drop as well.
“We just want to get to know the community,” said Jennie Livolsi.
*Featured photo from the Si’ Culi Facebook page.