By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – As Voz Vanelli picked his way through the remnants of his restaurant on Monday, he was reminded often that Vanelli’s is more than a building.
Employees, friends and patrons alike have barraged him with cries of support, asking him to reopen as soon as possible. They not only want his famous Greek and Italian menu offerings, but they want all that comes with the Vanelli’s legacy that includes a deep relationship with the community.
But it’s been only a week since April 28’s tornado, and there’s still much to consider.
“There’s so much that has to factored in before I can really make a decision,” Vanelli said.
What insurance will cover is one element along with the time and resources needed to rebuild. The restaurant took a direct hit and is a total loss.
However, Vanelli said, “I have survivors’ blood in me.”
Over the weekend, there were hints, at least on social media, that the restaurant would reopen sooner rather than later.
But Vanelli said that’s not exactly the case. While he admits that helping grow and build the restaurant his father started 39 years ago has been a work of passion, having to start all over again will be a challenge.
Still, he hasn’t ruled it out.
“If people want to save the restaurant, I’m willing to listen and work with them,” he said. “It’s more than just Vanelli’s the restaurant or the building to me. I think Vanelli’s means something more to a lot of people. This is bigger than me, so maybe we can come up with something. Anything is possible.”
The restaurant has been around for nearly 40 years, and in another 40 years, Vanelli said he’ll be 101.
While he’s not exactly stepping away from reopening or running a resurrected restaurant, Vanelli hinted that he’s willing to pass the baton on to someone who’s going to continue the Vanelli’s legacy.
Vanelli said he’s willing to teach someone the recipes, how to run the business “and make it better.”
He added, “If there’s a Vanelli’s there has to be quality, service and value, and not just in an economic sense, but in a societal sense. … It’s about having a core value. The restaurant business has changed. There’s a new paradigm for the 21st century and I’m old school.
“If someone wants to carry it further, I’m all for it,” he said. “I’m not looking to cash out. … there’s no reason not for it to return soon. But it’s about what I want for it – it’s about what people want to make of it.”
Storm-damaged restaurants in Tupelo that say they’re opening this week:
• Blue Canoe – Today, 3 p.m.
• Lost Pizza – Friday, 11 a.m.
• Neon Pig – Thursday, 11 a.m.
• Outback – Wednesday or Thursday, 4 p.m.