By Dan Hiner
NILES, Ohio – Vernon’s Cafe has been around for 26 years, but only recently received its first major renovation.
The Niles restaurant began a makeover around Labor Day that increased seating in the bar and dining areas. It was a 10-year plan that finally became reality for owner-chef Vernon Cesta.
“We’re increasing the size of the lounge from eight to 19 people at the bar,” Cesta says. “We blew the walls out. It makes a little more room for inside dining for the lounge area. And we’re expanding the patio to about 30 people, also.”
Cesta says work was done in various spaces in the past, but nothing on this scale.
“When my dad was alive, we always said we’d make the lounge a little bit bigger and everything else because we needed a little bigger area,” Cesta says. “Well, now 26 years later, we’re doing it.”
Because of the pandemic, the timing became oddly right for the nearly $500,000 project.
Vernon’s Cafe has two banquet areas. When the state implemented social distancing protocols, many banquet and indoor dining establishments had to close or cancel events.
Cesta, however, moved his primary dinning area to the banquet halls, allowing the business to continue operating and providing an opportunity to renovate the unused space.
“If we had banquets, it would have been a little bit of a seesaw battle there,” Cesta says.
The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of March and it could coincide with more customers entering the restaurant.
Cesta says business is still down – roughly 30%. But he says customers are starting to trickle back, with the weekends being their busiest days of the week. He says Vernon’s still sees a significant number of carryout and curbside orders, and he doesn’t anticipate that trend stopping after COVID-19.
“People with kids and sports and everything else with school don’t have time to come in,” he says. “It’s easy for them to pick up and take it home.”
The expansion isn’t the only change at Vernon’s Cafe. Cesta’s son, Tre, joined the restaurant after attending culinary school. Cesta says he will start giving his son more lessons on the business and will begin to let him run the show.
Cesta opened the business with his father in 1995. His son joining the kitchen will make the third generation to run one of Trumbull County’s favorite Italian stops.
“It’s an expansion, actually, for him too so he can look forward to the future and continue on,” Cesta says.
Copyright 2021, AfterHoursYoungstown, Youngstown, Ohio.
Posted March 17, 2021.