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Vignola family: Tracing back to their roots

The+Vignola+family+is+pictured+above+in+1982+in+their+original+restaurant+in+downtown+Rockville.+The+family+has+run+their+restaurant%2C+catering+business+and+market+since+this+picture+was+taken.
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Vignola family: Tracing back to their roots

The Vignola family is pictured above in 1982 in their original restaurant in downtown Rockville. The family has run their restaurant, catering business and market since this picture was taken.

The Vignola family is pictured above in 1982 in their original restaurant in downtown Rockville. The family has run their restaurant, catering business and market since this picture was taken.

photo courtesy of Giovanni Vignola

The Vignola family is pictured above in 1982 in their original restaurant in downtown Rockville. The family has run their restaurant, catering business and market since this picture was taken.

photo courtesy of Giovanni Vignola

photo courtesy of Giovanni Vignola

The Vignola family is pictured above in 1982 in their original restaurant in downtown Rockville. The family has run their restaurant, catering business and market since this picture was taken.

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Most CESJDS students and faculty who often go to Vignola Gourmet—the popular Italian restaurant across the street from the Upper School campus—don’t know the uplifting story of the restaurant’s creation. Vignola Gourmet’s heritage begins in the mid-1900s in Vicenza, Italy with Aluma and Luciano Vignola. Aluma grew up in Italy and worked alongside her mother in hotel kitchens beginning at age eight, while Luciano was raised on an Italian olive orchard and farm. 

The Vignolas learned the value of hard work in their native country where they married, and soon mastered cooking skills they had developed as young children. In the 1950s, the couple moved to America where they started their family deli.

The Vignolas opened their first deli in downtown Rockville, Md. in 1982, with their children, Arturo and Irene. The family brought their different mixes of Northern and Southern Italian cooking styles and recipes to the new business. The old-fashioned deli eventually evolved into a restaurant and remained in operation until 2004, when a massive construction project called the Revitalization of Downtown Rockville forced the Vignolas to close their sole location.  

Years later, the Vignolas opened two locations in Frederick and on Rockville Pike, which were ultimately sold. The family’s newest location opened in 2010 and is currently in the Randolph Hills Shopping Center near JDS.

Giovanni Vignola, the grandson of the original owners, has owned the restaurant since the late 1990s and now co-owns it with his wife Ashley. He looks forward to continuing to own Vignola and to keep it running in the family as he teaches his children how to operate and manage their business. 

Giovanni said he learned an “amazing work ethic,” the attitude of “how to get things done” and the pride of running a local business from his parents by helping out in the kitchen of the deli back when Vignola was initially established.

“I hope to be able to run [Vignola Gourmet] as long as I can,” Giovanni said. He added that he hopes to see his catering business and market continue to expand in the future, as they have in the past.

Giovanni, in reflecting on the hard work and commitment of his parents to their deli, finds that owning a business is “challenging” and making sacrifices is necessary, but that balancing family and work and knowing how to delegate responsibilities is critical.

“From Italy to America, generations of our family have been gathering around their dinner tables to enjoy these recipes, so it’s really special to us that we’re able to share that piece of our family history with our community one pasta bowl at a time,” Giovanni said.  

Vignola has become a popular spot for JDS students and teachers to spend lunches and late afternoons both during and after school hours, but most are not aware of the story behind the conveniently-located restaurant.

For high school art and design teacher Benjamin Tellie, eating at Vignola is a perfect place to work in a casual environment. Tellie goes to the market a few times a year, mostly to order his favorite menu item, the meatball sub. He enjoys the fact that he can easily pick up a sandwich when on the go. 

According to Tellie, he and the art department, as well as other teachers and their respective departments, have gone to Vignola together on professional development days.

“Vignola adds more diversity to the community, and the food is great,” Tellie said. “I like the small family vibe and the atmosphere is quiet and intimate with only a few tables, so I can sit and have conversations with my colleagues.” 

Senior Ethan Chanin also enjoys going to Vignola during lunch breaks and free periods about once a month. Chanin usually orders the chicken Caesar wrap, his favorite item on the menu, but also orders the pasta on occasion.

“I enjoy going to Vignola [Gourmet] because the food is really good and it’s hard to find good Italian food around JDS,” Chanin said. “Vignola is also a private business and it’s important to support small businesses that are local.”

Vignola is located at 11612 Boiling Brook Place, Rockville, Md. 20852. Hours are Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

This story was featured in the Volume 36, Issue 4 edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on January 25, 2019.

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