By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Another piece of the former Vanelli’s Greek and Italian restaurant will leave North Gloster Street on Sunday, 118 days after a tornado shook the foundation as employees huddled inside the food cooler.
This time, the outside pavilion will travel across town in an oversized transport trailer to Veterans Park. The structure will have functional use near softball fields and will be offered for rental through the city’s Parks and Recreation department.
The move also brings symbolism. Leaving debris for city green space encourages Tupelo leaders to continue speaking of rebuilding better than ever in areas rocked and twisted by the April 28 tornado.
Restaurant owner Voz Vanelli, 61, watched from his car Friday in the parking lot as workers used heavy equipment to prepare “Pappa’s Pavilion” for a new home after six years at the North Gloster Street restaurant.
“It’s kind of a like a symbol of the Tupelo Spirit about to rise up,” Vanelli said.
The pavilion’s colorful lights and cedar roof added personality and character to the restaurant’s second location. Demetrios Kapenekas first opened the business in a South Gloster Street location in 1975. His two sons, John and Voz joined the family business in three years later. Multiple generations of family and friends from Tupelo and surrounding communities identify Vanelli’s as special for many reasons.
Acclaimed Americana musician and songwriter Paul Thorn now travels the nation and beyond, decades after growing up in Tupelo. Working in a furniture factory by day, Thorn tried to live his dream at Vanelli’s and other venues at night.
Vanelli’s forever remains a milestone for Thorn, who will perform in Ann Arbor, Michigan, tonight. He’d perform at the restaurant for music producers from Los Angeles and Nashville, all trying to woo him to sign a recording contract.
“I actually got discovered there,” Thorn said Friday from Chicago. “It’s a very pivotal place in my life, not to mention I’ve always liked the food.”
Vanelli’s will likely reopen somewhere, but Voz Vanelli remains vague about those future plans. He continues refining new ideas at his home, less than five miles from Veterans Park.
“I’m working on lots of things,” Vanelli said. “I’ve been doing a lot of research.”