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Canadian-style casual dining invented in Sudbury

In February 1980, three Sudbury men, Nick Perpick, Ralph Roy and Gary Ceppetelli, opened the first Casey’s on The Kingsway.Summer 2008In February 1980, three Sudbury men, Nick Perpick, Ralph Roy and Gary Ceppetelli, opened the first Casey’s on The Kingsway.

Perpick and his brother-in-law, Ceppetelli, had learned about casual dining restaurants while visiting the United States, and decided to try the same concept here.

“At the time, the restaurant industry was very traditional. You had steakhouses, continental style, Chinese restaurants or Italian restaurants,” Perpick said. “What casual dining brought was a hybrid of dining and a bar, combined with food, fun and families.”

Customers were more than receptive to the idea. As the years went by, more restaurants opened, and there are now 35 Casey’s restaurants in Ontario and Quebec.

The three partners opened their first Pat and Mario’s restaurant, which serves Italian cuisine, in Whitby in 1984, and other franchises soon began popping up across North America.

The establishment of Pat and Mario’s restaurant in the United States sparked the idea for East Side Mario’s. The partners decided to launch a restaurant featuring the Italian-American food and culture found in the Lower East Side of New York City.

The East Side Mario’s concept has thrived. There are now 110 locations across Canada, and four in the United States.

With the rising popularity of their restaurants, in 1989, Perpick, Roy and Ceppetelli sold the business, although Perpick remained a minority owner.

In 2002, Perpick, along with partner John Rothschild, bought back the business he had helped to found more than 20 years earlier.

The 160-strong restaurant chain is operated under the name Prime Restaurants of Canada Inc.

The chain also runs 11 Irish pubs in Ontario under the names Fionn MacCool’s, D’Arcy McGee’s, Paddy Flaherty’s, Tir nan Óg and Sláinte, as well as two Toronto-area Belgian-style brasseries called Bier Markt Esplanade.

No matter how big his business gets, Perpick said he never forgets it all started in Sudbury. In fact, Casey’s still reflects its Sudbury roots, he said.

“The Casey’s today is different than the Casey’s it was in 1980. We’ve been able to evolve and re-invent the brand. While we believe the brand is stronger than ever, it still contains a lot of the culture and qualities that originated in the Casey’s in the Sudbury marketplace.”

The only Pat and Mario’s restaurant still operating is in Sudbury. The owners of Pat and Mario’s franchise, as well as the Sudbury Casey’s franchise, are Junior and Leslie Moutsatsos.

In 1981, the Sudbury couple opened a Casey’s franchise in Elliot Lake, but moved back home in 1984 to open a Pat and Mario’s on Lasalle Blvd. They bought the Casey’s on The Kingsway in 2005, and now employ 150 people in the city.

“I like to say that Casey’s is uniquely Sudburian and proudly Canadian. We gave birth to it here in Sudbury, and it’s ours. We might as well claim it,” said Leslie.

The couple said their goal is to provide the best customer service in Sudbury. They also feel strongly about treating their employees right.

“We have some awesome, awesome people working for us. I’ve had some people working for us longer than our kids have been alive,” said Junior. “That’s a big motivation for us to go to work every day. It’s just like going to see our kids.”

Casey’s most popular food is its ribs, “which are slow baked, finished on the grill, and laced with the restaurant’s own blend of barbecue sauce,” said Leslie.

Pat and Mario’s is known for its pasta dishes with homemade sauces, as well as its Caesar salad.

Perpick said the Moutsatsos family are “model franchisees” because of their strong commitment to the restaurant business and the Sudbury community.

“When you’re dealing with a franchise system, you ask people to be entrepreneurs,” he said.
“Junior and Leslie have totally dedicated themselves to the experience of their guests in the restaurants.”

There are two East Side Mario’s locations in Sudbury, but they are not owned by the Moutsatsos family.

 

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