‘My goal is Washington, Iowa’
Café Dodici just celebrated its ninth anniversary on Dec. 31, 2013, and at the beginning of this month an independent magazine named it the “Restaurateur of the Year.”
The magazine called “Independent Restaurateur” found out about Café Dodici when one of its marketing directors, Pat Berger, came to Washington with her friend, said Lorraine Williams, who owns Café Dodici with her husband, Alessandro Scipioni.
Each issue highlights the originality and exceptional qualities of peer restaurants, restaurateurs or chefs worthy of national attention, and also includes useful news and ideas on topics like food and beverage, equipment and technology, staff training and service, menus and recipes, industry and consumer trends, food safety, and marketing, the magazine’s Web site said. They also find out about restaurants by word of mouth or through a visit from one of their own staff members, which is what happened in Williams’s case.
“Pat Desser, who’s from Columbus Junction—she brought this woman to my restaurant with her family, who have been friends forever —56 years,” Williams said. “So they had a great time. I mean she was so impressed, even with the server.”
After Berger’s visit she wrote Williams an e-mail letting her know how much she enjoyed her visit to the restaurant.
In November 2013, Berger sent another e-mail to Williams letting her know the magazine would like to feature the restaurant. The feature was published this month. The publication will be e-mailed to over 45,000 independent restaurateurs, according to the Web site.
“What more could I ask for in a national publication?” Williams asked. “I’m just really honored that Washington again is recognized nationwide.”
Even without the publication Williams said people have been making trips to the restaurant. She said people would see a brochure or a news article about Café Dodici somewhere and would cut it out and keep it. Then six months later, they’re eating in Washington.
“They know they want to come here,” she said. “They come back with that wrinkled-up article in their purse and said, ‘I read this and I wanted to come here’; so my take on it is get the attention to Washington.”
She said she has been approached to open other restaurants in other towns but has turned those opportunities down because she loves Washington.
“My goal is not to own a bunch of restaurants,” Williams said. “My goal is Washington, Iowa.”
She loves being on the square, in the center of Washington. Williams and her husband Alessandro bought their building in 2004.
They opened their restaurant on New Year’s Eve in 2004, not knowing really what to expect.
“I just want to explain this scenario, if you can imagine; we’ve never had our own business, never owned a restaurant, we open New Year’s Eve and we’re booked solid,” Williams said, “and we weren’t quite sure how this was going to keep. But it was magical. There were a lot of people, the lights were happy, it was just beautiful, it was just beautiful.”
Her favorite thing about owning the restaurant can be answered in two words, the people, Williams said.
“I love meeting the people that come to me,” she said. “I have made very good friends and many, many acquaintances, which is just as important to me and being a key player in the revitalization of my community is why I love what I do. I love being on the square, being where the action is.”