DUBLIN — After three decades in business, an iconic Italian eatery is on the market, bringing longtime customers together again at the tables to enjoy their favorite dishes and reminisce.
David and Elaina DelRossi listed DelRossi’s Trattoria for sale in May, along with the 12 or so acres of land.
“We’re really trying to find somebody honestly that wants to do what we’ve been doing for 30 years,” David said. “It obviously works — we have a good clientele, a good customer base.”
Though the business is up for sale, David underscored that the restaurant is still open during its regular hours for dinner Wednesdays through Sundays. The trattoria will remain open unless an ownership change dictates otherwise, he said.
The couple bought the property on Brush Brook Road in 1987 and spent about a year and a half renovating and restoring the farmhouse, which dates to 1786. David recalled stripping layers of paint to reveal the original wood.
The trattoria opened in 1989.
Aside from its Italian dishes, the trattoria is defined by the plethora of wood inside — the exposed support beams and posts, the floorboards, the tables and chairs with a glossy dark finish.
It might be a dim setting, if not for the white ceiling and the sharp contrast of the walls, painted a minty green in some rooms and covered with speckled ivory wallpaper in others. The colors lighten the aesthetics, topped by electric candle sconces that cast a warm glow.
With its many rooms, the eatery feels simultaneously intimate and infinite, achieving a secluded sense of home for patrons.
And it’s replete with remnants of its history. Built-in hutches and the leftovers of a sealed brick fireplace are reminders that the trattoria was once a home.
There are also pieces of Del- Rossi’s musical past: framed photos on the walls, signed by musicians, and a piano on a small corner stage, now home to an oscillating fan.
David explained that he and Elaina are avid music fans, particularly of bluegrass. The couple launched a music store in Jaffrey in 1978, after four years of running a small breakfast and lunch joint. They sold high-quality instruments out of the shop and set up booths at bluegrass festivals.
They moved the store to the second floor of the trattoria in 2000 or so, David said, and the couple settled there, too, four years later.
The music store was much smaller than it was in Jaffrey, he said, now that it was “in the middle of nowhere.” Business declined, but he noted that “it wasn’t our livelihood anymore,” not like the restaurant had become.
Meanwhile, they started hosting bands at DelRossi’s after opening and featured sold-out shows nearly every weekend. The genres varied, though it was predominantly bluegrass. The music scene peaked in the early 2000s and dropped off after that; the couple cut back and eventually stopped the shows.
While David said he’ll miss customers and staff, he admitted that he’s looking forward to the mental and physical break from running the business.
“Just the thought of getting up in the morning and not having to answer the phone and do this and do that or think about the scheduling, would be such a … weight off my shoulders,” he said.
He and Elaina don’t have specific plans, but he hopes they can do more traveling to Europe, a passion they haven’t had time to pursue as much as they’d like since they’ve essentially been self-employed since 1972.
David looks back fondly on the restaurant’s history and said the business was well-received and offered a major benefit to the community because of its space to accommodate larger groups. Events at DelRossi’s have included small wedding receptions and rehearsals, anniversary celebrations, birthdays and retirements.
“That’s what made it really tough to a lot of our customers that we’re closing, is they have memories,” David said. “If the trattoria abruptly closed without notice, he added, “it would be a big, obviously a huge void.”
At a table in the largest dining room sat a family well-acquainted with DelRossi’s.
Former Dublin Selectman Peter “Sturdy” Thomas sat with his wife, Heidi, his sister, Leonora Thomas Abrams, and his father, Pete Thomas, who the siblings insisted is better known as “Pistol Pete.”
Pete couldn’t remember the first time he came to the trattoria, but he guessed it was shortly after it opened, and the family has returned for nearly every special occasion since. They celebrated Pete’s 75th birthday there, among many others over the years.
“We are just so lucky to have this place to go to,” Pete said.
Leonora, who lives in Florida and spends her summers on Cape Cod, was in town visiting, so of course they all went to DelRossi’s. Sturdy credited the staff for accommodating his sister’s allergies and dietary restrictions, even allowing her to inspect packaging for ingredients and making any needed changes or substitutions.
They all raved about the food, noting that it isn’t just a convenient restaurant but a high- quality one.
“When you opened that door … didn’t your senses just come alive?” Heidi asked, noting the scent of garlic and other herbs.
Sturdy recalled many local meetings held at the eatery, including the Dublin Teachers Association and appreciation dinners for town employees. Sometimes Dublin committee members or selectmen would go to DelRossi’s for dinner before a meeting, too, he said.
“It’s a tragedy,” he said of the impending sale. “... [The restaurant is] part of the fabric of the community.”
Lauding David and Elaina for their ownership and what they gave to Dublin, Sturdy said he hopes whoever buys the property and the business continues their legacy.
“Our two daughters were raised here,” he added, noting that one came home from college this summer and, of course, wanted to eat at DelRossi’s.
When speaking to a reporter earlier, David regrettably acknowledged that, even if he finds a buyer who’s willing to keep the restaurant as it is and who can learn all of the recipes on the menu, people are correct when they say it will never be the same.
“I’m sure people can do it, they can make it work, but no, it can never be the same,” David said. “It’ll be the same food, but it’s a different thing. People want us here.
“That’s what happens when you create something when you’re here all the time. We’re not absentee owners.”
Just after the dishes were brought to the Thomas table, a young woman, Traci Naylor, came from the kitchen and tapped Pete on the shoulder.
Originally from Dublin, Naylor said later that she lives in Temple and teaches by day, but she’s kept her job at DelRossi’s for nearly a decade, since she was in high school. As a chef’s assistant, Naylor makes the pasta from scratch, she said.
When asked why she kept the job, even after graduating from Keene State College and moving, her answer was simple: “because David’s the best.”
For her graduation, the couple took her to Aruba, she said, and David laughed.
“It’s family here,” she said.
Back at the Thomas table, when Naylor tapped Pete on the shoulder, he hugged her and apologized for missing a party. She then flashed her left hand, brandishing a ring, and said he missed the announcement.
Pete’s eyes lit up, and his face couldn’t contain his smile. He embraced her as he laughed, congratulating her several times. Naylor grinned, saying that she’d told the rest of Pete’s family to keep it a secret until she could tell him.
Sturdy leaned over quietly: “This right here is what makes this place so great.”