The Comets aren’t the only local business who are celebrating a milestone this fall.
Aqua Vino, the restaurant owned by Comets President Robert Esche, heads into its tenth anniversary this fall; today, September 5, 2007, was the soft opening of the restaurant, and the first time that locals were able to eat at the restaurant with a prime location on the Erie Canal.
Even while Esche was playing in the NHL, he couldn’t help but focus on creating a new business project in his hometown. Two of his longtime friends, former Mayor Tim Julian, and Pat Donovan, suggested that he look into potential business opportunities in Utica, and that it would be a smart way for him to get first-hand experience in the business world. Coming from a life on the ice, Esche had no idea what he was getting into, or the fact that, ten years later, Aqua Vino would be standing tall alongside the Comets as a successful project thriving in Utica.
All while preparing to enter his ninth season in the NHL, Esche traveled further down the path of opening a restaurant. He brought on two of his friends, Bob and Alicia Dicks, as partners, and would later come up with the name for the restaurant in Chicago with two of his closest friends, John and Jackie Romano. The construction and renovation project of the two-story facility was completed in just three months, and was done with Esche working alongside his brother-in-law, Ray Meyers, who is now an integral part of the operations at The AUD.
Transitioning to the kitchen, Mike Geno, one of the most renowned and respected chefs across the City of Utica, was brought on to engineer a menu that would highlight Utica’s famed cuisine of chicken riggies, greens, meatballs, and more. Trish LaBella, a familiar face at Aqua Vino, began waiting tables and running the catering facet of the company on day one, and has continued to be part of the trifecta that runs the restaurant smoothly throughout the year. And finally, Esche’s mother, Beverly, along with her daughter, Lisa, have both been the rocks that have grounded the restaurant, the minds that have moved it forward, and the hearts that have kept customers smiling day in and day out.
Over the past ten years, Aqua Vino has taught Esche and the rest of his family and friends a plethora of invaluable knowledge about what it takes to start up a business – knowledge that proved to be even more instrumental during the inception of the Comets. Both businesses celebrate their local customers and fans, respectively, and are synonymous throughout the City with places to spend time together with friends and family in the most unique and special of settings. A restaurant that was created by family and friends, should, at its core, cater to those same types of people, who place a value in staying local and building relationships with those who matter most.
As Aqua Vino begins its tenth year, its customers will see an array of changes, all of which will highlight the brand while creatively providing patrons with new experiences. From new food and drink items, to new social media activations, to new projects and undertakings, Aqua Vino, alongside the Comets, is prepared to have an unbelievable and memorable milestone year, all thanks to its loyal customers who keep the doors open, year after year.
Be sure to follow @Aqua_Vino on Instagram for the most updated news and announcements to come this Fall.