Whether with its traditional-but-modern menu, the beauty of its renovated church-turned-restaurant or its welcoming social scene, Victor's Italian Restaurant grabs hold of hearts and taste buds.
The Spring Garden Township landmark turned 30 this month. The current quartet of owners took over in 2007 with an eye toward continuing long-standing traditions while updating the wine and beer selections and adding seasonal menus to match modern tastes.
The love affair, though, began much earlier.
"Victor's is the first restaurant I frequented when I came to York many years ago while visiting my then-fiance," says co-owner Marie Sindicich. "I looked forward to it immensely because I was a college student at the time and rarely ate a decent meal."
The experiences left an impression Sindicich hopes to replicate for others, young and old.
"It is still one of the things I love about the restaurant as I watch strangers become friends while enjoying a great meal at our bar and groups of friends and families at tables in the dining room who come in together to relax over a great meal and enjoy each other's company," she says.
Irresistible: The drive to purchase Victor's came from Sindicich's husband, Mark, and from Sam Yost, says co-owner Ann Marie Yost. The couples' shared interests made running the restaurant an opportunity they couldn't resist.
"We are all foodies and enjoy cooking as well and trying new restaurants. Good wine and craft beer are also a passion for us," says Ann Marie Yost. " I think originally it was an interest to grow a business that had solid roots and we could put our fingerprint on it, so to speak."
The quartet's fresh fingerprint has included things big and small: structural and equipment upgrades to the historic building, gardens and a patio out front, and a colorful facelift indoors going all the way down to the menu boards and artwork.
"One of our most recent additions has been a wine dispensing system that maintains wine by the glass at proper temperatures, enabling those who would like a great glass of wine to order by the glass," says Marie Sindicich.
Traditions: While Victor's is always moving forward, the restaurant's past is equally important to the owners. Maintaining the legacy started three decades ago means paying attention to more than food.
"We also have a summer bocce league that is about as old as Victor's," says Ann Marie Yost. "Sitting by the court to watch a match is a great way to spend a summer evening, even if you are not in the league. The matches are sometimes heated and intense — it can get pretty boisterous."
The continuity on the court carries over to the kitchen, where the owners know what a treasure they have in executive chef George "Geo" Sheffer.
"He started here as a busboy in his teens before moving into the kitchen," says Marie Sindicich. After heading off to culinary school and working elsewhere, Sheffer returned to Victor's, she says. "He has worked at Victor's for half his life. He knows the building inside and out. He knows all the original dishes, so when a patron comes in and requests a dish, he knows the recipe."
The food at Victor's routinely lands the restaurant at the top of best-of lists and earns diners' choice awards. For the 30th anniversary celebration, some old favorites are seeing a comeback.
Returning: "We have brought back a few classics on our summer menu and our chef's table, especially our Meatball Monday special that revives our 30-year-old meatball recipe," Sheffer says. "We will be doing a week of original menu items in September."
To make the September Throwback Week authentic, the current owners contacted the previous owner for a copy of that original Victor's menu, Marie Sindicich says.
"Victor's legacy will always be character," says Mark Sindicich, who also says he hopes patrons feel they've gotten "an experience not only good for the area but standout to any dining experience anywhere."
The unique design of the repurposed church and the friendly faces around the rectangular bar add to the sense of cozy camaraderie, the owners say.
"It is an upscale restaurant while still being a relaxed atmosphere," says Sam Yost. "You can sit at the bar and have a world-class meal while enjoying a cocktail, glass of wine or a beer and having company all around you."
From the headaches of installing new electrical subpanels to the joys of tasting potential additions to the wine and craft beer lists, the owners wouldn't trade a moment of shepherding Victor's through the years and into whatever the future holds.
"It's been a labor of love," says Ann Marie Yost. "We have the right people in place, and I feel blessed and proud to be a part of it."
The owners of Victor's Italian Restaurant are proud to continue the legacy of purchasing produce from local farms and key Italian ingredients from Claudio's Specialty Foods and Di Bruno Bros. in Philadelphia.
The menu features a mix of traditional dishes — classic Victor's — as well as modern Mediterranean fare and seasonal dishes. Asked for their favorites, here's how the owners responded:
Marie Sindicich: "I'm obsessed with a menu item for a while until I get it out of my system. Right now it is the Heirloom Salad with Burrata, BLT Salad and Truffle Fries. And I always love the Eggplant Parmesan, a classic! For dessert, our rum cake is delicious — and tiramisu, two more classics."
Mark Sindicich: "Mussels Diavolo."
Ann Marie Yost: "I love all the Parmesans. I think historically for me, the Eggplant Parmesan could be my favorite. But honestly, I absolutely love Chef George's food, and every time I try something new, it's my favorite at that moment."
Sam Yost: "Shrimp and Clams Sam's Style (white wine sauce, hot and spicy)."
Dining at Victor's
Victor's Italian Restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Dinner hours are 5 to 9:30 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and 5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.
The restaurant is located at 554 S. Ogontz St., in a quiet residential area of Spring Garden Township. Weather permitting, the patio and garden area seating is open daily during lunch and dinner.
Reservations can be made online through opentable.com. For more information, visit www.victorsofyork.com or call 854-7958.
— Reach Mel Barber at email@example.com.