Big changes are happening at one of Merced popular Italian restaurants.
But the traditional friendly service will remain the same, said Devin DeLeon, the new owner of what used to be DiCicco’s Restaurant at 3360 N. State Hwy 59.
DeLeon, a Merced native and longtime employee of DiCicco’s, said she is providing a fresh American take on traditional Italian cuisine.
The establishment’s new name, “Ravello’s Restaurant and Bakery,” harkens back to her family’s ancestral village of the same name on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.
“I want my hometown — Merced — to get a little stamp of my family’s history,” DeLeon said, noting that Ravello’s will also cater to gluten-free customers.
DiCicco’s is a chain of Italian restaurants independently run by near and distant relatives in the DiCicco family.
DeLeon recently took over the restaurant’s Merced location after longtime owners Paul and Rosemarie DiCicco retired and moved out of state due to health concerns, she said.
DeLeon started as a hostess at DiCicco’s in 2011 while she was attending Merced College and worked her way up to becoming a server, then manager.
She always set her sights on cooking and owning a restaurant, but credited the DiCiccos for preparing her over the last eight years.
“The previous owners really took me under their wing as a daughter,” DeLeon said.
But DeLeon also grew up in a family of bakers. So, among the major changes to the restaurant is the addition of a bakery that will include three kinds of bread, plus eclaires and cream pies.
DeLeon also is opening up the Ravello’s menu in order to appeal to a wider American palate, while incorporating family recipes. For example, the lunch menu includes a pastrami sandwich that provides a break from the traditional Italian cuisine.
The new owner also plans on serving “secret” and “special” dishes from her own recipes on Thursday and Friday nights, she said.
The DiCicco’s gave their blessing to the new owner in a Facebook post.
“She is like a daughter to us, and we can think of no one more capable of carrying on the tradition of delicious food and friendly atmosphere that our family is known for,” Paul DiCicco states in the post.
DeLeon operated DiCicco’s through last week, and then closed the restaurant down for three days to remodel and reopen on Wednesday as Ravello’s. The plan is to have patrons try out the new menu and give feedback in advance of a grand opening on Sept. 1.
“Some people will say it has drastically changed,” DeLeon said. “But we have the same friendly staff.”