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Joe Sparatta overcomes hurdles to reopen Heritage in Richmond

Posted at 11:39 AM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 16:56:32-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- When Joe and Emilia Sparatta arrived in Richmond about a decade ago, they hit the ground running. From helping Jason Alley open Pasture, to opening their wildly successful Richmond restaurant Heritage, to opening a second successful Richmond restaurant Southbound, to expanding from a couple to a family of four, there has not been much downtime for the Sparattas.

That all changed in March 2020 when COVID-19 shut down the restaurant industry.

"It was really hard to try to completely shift gears and amazingly stressful to try to make these decisions," Joe Sparatta said about the month the COVID-19 pandemic hit Richmond. "Being worried about people's health. Not knowing how the virus worked. Not understanding, are we keeping people safe? Is this a terrible idea being open? It was just very challenging, to say the least."

After a few weeks of limited service and to-go orders, the Sparattas decided to temporarily close their beloved restaurant.

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"It was super traumatic. It was so hard to have to close down. It was so hard to think that this might be the last time we're ever in this building," Sparatta said.

One year later, the Sparattas are preparing to reopen Heritage -- with some modifications.

"I just feel fortunate that we're able to come back," Sparatta said. "I probably think we will be disappointing some people by not being open for brunch or they might not be able to get a table for a little while, because we're doing such a limited capacity. But we're just happy to be back and trying to move on. There is certainly a little PTSD from that. I think everybody has that now. My mental health was certainly shaken up a bit."

On this week's Eat It, Virginia! Joe Sparatta shared what it's going to take to reopen Heritage and maintain a healthy family dynamic.

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"Trying to find a middle ground is challenging, but we're working on that, and that's part of our reopening strategy with Heritage. We're going to start out really small," he said. "So just right now the team is myself, my wife, we have great bar managers lined up, we're still working on a couple of servers, but only doing a couple of days a week to start, because that's currently what we have with staffing. And we're going to kind of see how it goes from there. We might only do Friday and Saturday to start, maybe 20 or 30 people, and just keep it super low key. Just go to the Farmer's Market every week, get everything I need, and make the menu weekly."

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Sparatta said he hoped to have Heritage reopened sometime in mid-July.

"It's really going to be me and one other person cooking in the kitchen. And that's it. And it will be Emilia, plus a bar manager and a server, super minimal start," he said. "We're just going to take it literally day by day. But I'm excited to work with my wife again. We haven't really worked together for last few years because she took on a larger role with our family and taking care of our children. She's a wonderful mom and she's also incredibly talented. I'm excited to see her on the floor again. She does such an amazing job. She makes Heritage work, I just make food."

Heritage is located at 1627 West Main Street in Richmond.

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