Three of the five Culinary Concepts’ restaurants have reopened since Hurricane Ian while Pazzo Cucina Italiana and Chops City Grill on Fifth Avenue South in Naples plan to open in two weeks.
Pazzo and Chops in downtown Naples will reopen Nov. 21 for the first time since storm surge from the hurricane pushed at least 3 feet of water into the longtime local restaurants operated by Skip Quillen and his Culinary Concepts restaurant group.
“We got hit pretty good,” said Quillen, who has spent millions of dollars in the past few years completely renovating his restaurants. Pazzo was refurbished two years ago and Chops Naples was renovated three years ago. Now, he will spend millions to get them back in operating condition.
“The problem is you’ve got to do it the right way. We had to rip out 4 feet of walls all the way through both restaurants and do a lot of woodworking,” he said. “We’re in the midst of it. We’re hoping to open up by Thanksgiving weekend but that’s going to take a herculean effort to get that done. We’re really working night and day trying to make it happen.”
In addition to dining room damage, the restaurants lost all cooking equipment and coolers. Rebuilding the properties meant starting from scratch, Quillen said.
“We basically took six months to remodel all of these restaurants and I’ve got to get them back in like six weeks. So, it’s a nightmare,” he said. “But we have an obligation to the 100 families who are attached to these restaurants. Their livelihood is tied to what we’re doing, so I have to get it done. We’re moving as fast as we can.”
Quillen’s employees are helping him rebuild and rebound. “Most of my guys are like family. I’ve had them for like 20 years,” Quillen said. “We’re lucky in the sense that we have each other.”
Culinary Concepts’ corporate bar manager Kendra Rizzi has worked at Chops since the local steakhouse launched in 1997. “It’s my second home,” she said. “And people love this place. It’s like their second home, too.”
Culinary Concepts’ other restaurants — Yabba Island Grill on Fifth, Chops in Bonita Springs and The Saloon at Coconut Point in Estero — reopened Oct. 4. Quillen promises that Pazzo and Chops in Naples also will be back soon fully staffed with a full menu and bar.
“All you can do is your best,” he said. “We want to make a safe environment for our employees and our customers.”