The former Vinnie’s Pizzeria on Swanson Avenue, which closed a few months ago, has a new owner and the community has been invited to give the restaurant its new name. The winner, to be announced about mid-August, will receive a pizza party for 10, including a sample platter of wings, sliders and beverages (excluding spirits and wine).
The Vinnie’s restaurant business was purchased by Michael Penner, who has lived in Havasu about eight years. He was originally from Minneapolis, and also lived in Colorado for a time. His fiancé, Kathy Cenelli, called “Mom” by everyone, will help run the restaurant and incorporate some of her Italian family’s favorite recipes into the menu. She and her family are from Yonkers, N.Y., and she will introduce authentic Italian food and New York pizza, as well as unique “wedge” sandwiches, a Yonkers and Bronx term for hero sandwiches.
“When you grow up in a city that’s very cultural, you get used to great food,” Cenelli said. “We want to bring some of that food culture to Lake Havasu. For one thing, we want to show Havasu what a real ‘Reuben’ is supposed to be.”
And they are willing to listen to customers. “If someone has a suggestion for a food item we should offer,” Penner said, “we’ll give it a try. It’s going to be a real family restaurant, and we’ll serve what the people want most.”
To encourage families to visit, they plan to separate the bar from the eating area. “No one likes to take their family out to eat and have to listen to the noise from bar patrons,” Cenelli said.
Penner’s parents moved to Havasu 16 years ago, and Penner visited Havasu often. About eight years ago, his father became ill and he and Cenelli moved to Havasu to take care of his parents.
Kathy’s son, Bill Wreden, will manage the kitchen. Wreden, whose father was a chef in the Navy for years, has had a lifelong love for cooking, starting by waiting on tables at age 12. After high school, he attended the ICE Culinary Institute in Manhattan, NY. He has worked as a chef or cook for many restaurants, and owned and operated a pizzeria in Denver.
“We’re making a lot of changes at the restaurant,” Wreden said. “It won’t be just a pizza place. All that was there before were the pizza ovens, a microwave, and a single station induction cook top. We are adding a six-burner stove, a 36-inch lava rock grill, and fryers. We’re expanding the menu to include burgers, sandwiches, steaks and some favorite Italian dishes.”
“We hope to open by Labor Day weekend,” Penner said. To prove how serious they are about pleasing customers, they are inviting a select group of people to a “tasting party” before the grand opening, to get their reactions to various dishes they will be serving.
Choosing a name isn’t going to be an easy task for Penner, Cenelli and Wreden, as hundreds of possible names have been submitted. Wreden is conducting the name contest on their Facebook page, “Rename Vinnie’s” at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1037438636279974/.
If you have an idea for a name for the new restaurant, submit your idea before midnight Aug. 9.