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From Server to Owner – La Famiglia Changes Hands

The Gaspari family opened the doors to La Famiglia in 2004 on East First Street, the same year Nicki Shea began slinging pasta at the traditional Italian restaurant as a waitress. It was a job she adored almost as much as the Gasparis themselves,  and it was enough to put her through university and launch her career at as food and beverage manager at various Ritz-Carlton hotels across California.

But after five years in the fast-paced hospitality industry, something wasn’t right. Nicki found the work fulfilling, she says, but she wasn’t fulfilled. And it was La Famiglia that was missing.

la-famiglia-reno-open-for-lunchThe Gaspari owners were ready to hang up their aprons and settle into retirement, but finding the perfect owner seemed daunting. Floating the idea to Nicki, who still worked in the restaurant for the sheer enjoyment of it whenever she visited, proved serendipitous.

Within 30 days of hammering out the details to buy the restaurant, Nicki had moved back to Reno from southern California and was greeting guests as the owner.Keeping it in the Family

One of the biggest concerns when the Gasparis were looking for a buyer was finding someone who could keep its traditions alive. And Nicki, who quite literally grew up in these traditions, was the perfect candidate.

While the food, the ambiance, the passion and the raison d’être will be just as familiar to loyal La Famiglia patrons, its new hours may come as a welcome surprise.

The restaurant now features weekday lunch from 11 am to 2 pm, as well as Sunday dinner.

“People has asked for years for lunch service and dinner on Sundays,” says Nicki, “so we’re excited to meet that demand.”

Fresh Energy & Focus

Nicki’s years at the Ritz-Carlton are serving her well as she settles in at La Famiglia under her new title. She’s focusing on ingredient quality, which has long been an important element of La Famiglia’s dishes, as well as food tasting and wine training.

Still, the staples will stay the same. Even as the restaurant develops its new lunch menu, patrons will still find familiar dinner favorites like antipasti, insalate, delicate pasta, amazing meats and luscious cheesecakes.

Plans are in the works for a few aesthetic updates down the road, but the bar, the white tablecloths and the cases of wine stacked here are there aren’t going anywhere. And, guests will still be able to make reservations the old-fashioned way. It may be a new world, Nicki says, but she prefers handwritten tickets and a conversation for reservations. That’s why so many patrons enjoy such a personal relationship with La Famiglia, and that’s not going anywhere.

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