Rochester, N.Y. – Wegmans plans to open its first-ever Italian restaurant at its East Ave. store.
The restaurant has a pending liquor license application with the state for Market Café Amore. A Wegmans spokesperson says the restaurant will be full-service. The store will also house the chain’s traditional Market Café, which offers a variety of prepared food.
The supermarket is still developing the concept for the Italian restaurant. Wegmans operates pubs at several of its stores in other states, as well as the Food Bar in Pittsford. It also owns the Next Door Bar & Grill in Pittsford.
The East Ave. store is being rebuilt and will open in late spring or early summer.
Ristorante Lucano is across the street from the East Ave. store. The owner is a little nervous about the competition.
"I would hope it would attract more business to my business," said Joann Formosa. "If (customers) want the authentic Italian experience, I would think they would come to Ristorante Lucano. This is not coming into a grocery store. You’re coming into our house. And this is the way you get treated when you’re here."
Mario Daniele, owner of Mario's Via Abruzzi, said Wegmans should do well in the venture. But he has some advice about authentic Italian cooking. "Go to Italy, learn more, bring it over, and if it’s something I missed, I’d like to copy it."
Wegmans is known for doing its homework. Before launching its Italian cookie line, it sent bakers to Italy. It licensed DiBella's submarine sandwiches. When she got into the liquor store business, a Wegmans family member bought what was arguably the city's most successful liquor store and hired its owner. Wegmans also researched its premium Italian Classics line of food.
In a town with so many Italian restaurants, can Wegmans succeed in this arena?
"I would try it just for comparison but if we’re going to get together with a bunch of girls, we’re going to come here," said Tyler Lamar, a diner at Lucano. "We’re not going to go to Wegmans."
'Wegmans seems to be successful at anything they do," said another Lucano customer Debra Damelio. "So good luck to them. I think they’ll do great."