Soffritto Italian Grill Cooks Up Business Success
Stefania Panza knows food. As well she should. Food and restaurants have long been a big part of her life. She first learned about food and the restaurants as a small child in Italy by observing her parents run their trattoria. Formal training as a chef (and architect) followed. Panza then paid her dues and learned the business from the ground up by acting in a variety of positions at a Delaware restaurant. Eventually she became manager and part owner of the business.
Not yet fulfilled, Panza began planning her own facility with her own special flair. She found an appropriate site near Newark, Delaware, but it needed a great deal of expensive renovation to become the Italian-styled restaurant she envisioned. She found assistance at the Small Business Administration’s Delaware District office. District Director Jayne Armstrong helped Panza negotiate the complexities of financing a restaurant. Together they worked out a strategy.
After several attempts working with local banks Panza was able to secure an SBA-backed loan through Sun National Bank for $791,000 to purchase and renovate the building. Panza worked with Armstrong to plan how to keep the existing business open during renovations to provide some cash flow and maintain the liquor license. Armstrong said, “I could just tell that Stefania would be successful. She had such an intimate knowledge of cash flow and the details of what would make her restaurant profitable. She could quote break even points and expenses from memory. Her experience and passion were a great combination.”
The restaurant, Soffritto Italian Grill, opened complete with a stone faced façade and vineyard landscaping appearing as if it had been transplanted from a Tuscan hillside. The three sided fireplace and 12 foot tall glass wall and waterfall add to the appeal. The fare emphasizes fresh and healthy ingredients in both northern and southern Italian cuisine. Soffritto
The restaurant has been a great success with Panza being awarded many honors; multiple Best of Delaware awards, State of Delaware Restaurant Neighbor Award, multiple News Journal Reader’s Choice awards, and the New Castle County Chamber’s Woman Entrepreneur of the Year award. She has been nominated for the SBA Small Business Person of the Year Award.
Panza plans a 2000 square foot expansion in 2012 to add a banquet facility. Given the fact that Soffritto was packed to capacity the night my wife and I most recently enjoyed there, the expansion will be another great success for Panza and her husband Giovanni.