CHESHIRE – Throughout the pandemic, no industry has been more negatively impacted by COVID-19 related restrictions than foodservice.
Restaurants in particular were forced to close at the onset of the crisis, then had to adapt to an ever-changing landscape that hampered their ability to deliver meals and services profitably. Many restaurants did not survive the turmoil.
One of them is Viron Rondo Osteria, the popular Italian restaurant located at the northern end of Cheshire. Since moving in in 2014, owner Viron Rondos has transformed the establishment into a destination spot, not just for hungry Cheshire diners, but for diners across the state.
Over the past two years, Rondos’ restaurant has been impacted like every other establishment, but it has been able to stay afloat during the worst of the pandemic and then adapt to the “new normal” over time. This has allowed it not only to remain a successful restaurant, but also to retain the majority of its staff and give back to the community.
All of this has earned Rondos very special recognition.
Earlier this month, local and state officials visited on a sunny afternoon to present Rondos with the Small Business Administration’s Connecticut “Small Business Owner of the Year” award. The SBA-sponsored honor is given to 50 winners annually — one per state — in recognition of their hard work and ability to keep local and national economies moving, even in the most difficult of circumstances.
“The SBA Connecticut 2022 Small Business Week Award winners are great examples of companies that are helping to build a better America through entrepreneurship,” said Mike Vlacich, SBA New England Regional Administrator. “These business owners demonstrate the resilience and tenacity of entrepreneurs in Connecticut and our country. They have proven their endurance, they create jobs, they have responded to adversity in unimaginable setbacks, and they give back to their communities through their businesses and in their spare time.
At the April 11 ceremony, held outside the Route 10 restaurant in Rondos, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, along with Cheshire City Council Speaker Tim Slocum and other officials, joined Rondos and his family for the award ceremony, as guests. enjoying a spring day outdoors watched.
“I’m very grateful for this award,” Rondos said. “It has been a very difficult few years and I am very proud of my family, my staff and the whole community. I am also very proud of the restaurant community.
In choosing Viron Rondo Osteria, the SBA recognized the local restaurant industry in general, Rondos said, and he said how grateful he was that his establishment was able to survive and thrive after unprecedented challenges.
“We’ve been one of the lucky ones,” he said, crediting the restaurant’s outdoor dining experience with helping him through the pandemic. “A lot of places that couldn’t (offer outdoor seating) really struggled. Some of them went bankrupt. »
When the pandemic first hit in 2020, Rondos had just completed a massive construction project — a multimillion-dollar addition that included a Mediterranean-inspired patio and veranda, a New York-style bar topped with a vintage chandelier, a second kitchen, a wine cellar and an additional dining area. When all restaurants were forced to close for indoor dining and, for the first 90 days of the pandemic, only offered takeout, Rondos admits to being concerned about the survival of his business.
“It’s really the immediate community that has kept us going these first three months,” Rondos said. “Their support…we wouldn’t be here without them.”
As the crisis continued, Rondos and his staff essentially had to “be different every day,” he said. “The hardest part was that the rules and regulations were constantly changing,” he continued. “Something you were supposed to do this week, the following week it was changed.”
Customer loyalty has enabled Rondos to not only keep the majority of its staff on the payroll, but also to offer assistance during a difficult time.
“We’ve done a lot (offering meals) to hospitals,” he said. “We helped the (Cheshire Food Pantry), gave what we could to (Cheshire’s Lights of Hope). It was such a bad time for so many people, we just wanted to help the community in any way we could… as a way of saying “Thank you for keeping us (as a company) alive”.
As the state and country move past the pandemic and most of the restrictions it has caused, Viron Rondo Osteria remains one of the most popular restaurants in all of Connecticut, consistently being named to “Best of” lists. Rondos continues to be grateful for the support and believes it’s because his establishment is committed to the best local ingredients, top-notch service and an atmosphere where “one way or another, you leave happy”.
“I think we’ve been successful in bringing New York, the Mediterranean and New England together here,” Rondos said with a laugh. “After 30 years in this industry, I’ve learned what to do and what not to do. We’re very authentic about who we are. We don’t pretend to be something we’re not. .
Viron Rondo Osteria is located at 1721 Highland Ave. For more information about the restaurant, menu items or opening hours, visit their website at www.vironrondoosteria.com.