Buttitta's restaurant closes

Buttitta's restaurant closes

CHAMPAIGN — A lack of business has forced the family-owned Italian restaurant Buttitta's to shutter its doors about a year and a half after it opened.

The last day for Buttitta's Famiglia Restaurante, 1201 S. Neil St., C, was Sunday.

"Our lease is over. We just couldn't keep up with the enormous overhead," said Vicky Buttitta, who owned the restaurant with her husband, John Buttitta.

The couple invested almost $1 million in the business, she estimated.

John Buttitta's father, Dom Buttitta, founded Dom's Patio Villa, a restaurant that operated for about 40 years in Champaign. Dom's, 301 S. Locust St., closed at the end of 2007 after the death of Betty Buttitta, Dom's wife. At the time, John and Vicky said they were ready for a fresh start and announced they would open a new restaurant, with some old favorites from Dom's and new dishes in a larger, more upscale location.

The Buttittas oversaw a major renovation of the building that was once home to Jillian's, a bar and pool hall. Buttitta's, which could seat over 250 people, featured a pizza kitchen, lounge area with piano, murals on the walls, and a bar. It opened in early 2010.

"There was not enough business to stay open. I guess people would rather support the chain restaurants where their money goes out of town," Buttitta said. "I thought we had more of a relationship with people, but I guess we didn't," she said.

Among the challenges they faced: Vicky Buttitta fell ill with lung cancer and was unable to work for a while. It also took some time to train employees and for them to feel comfortable with new kitchen equipment, she said.

Buttitta is now in remission and said she and John were able to develop a good crew of employees.

"A lot of steady customers came back," she said.

They sought out investors, but that did not come about, she said.

The restaurant employed 52 people.

"There are 52 people scrambling for jobs now," she said. "Our employees are very loyal, great people."

Managers are calling customers who reserved rooms in the restaurant for private dining events and referring them elsewhere.

"We value the customers that did support us. For us, they became more than customers, she said.

Buttitta said she and her husband have "no clue" what they will do next. "It's a scary proposition," she said.

They live in Champaign and plan to stay here because their family is here.

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anony95 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Actually, we avoid chain restaurants. We made our decision not to patronize this restaurant when they opened and chose to put up a billboard next to another established local Italian restaurant - obviously hoping to put THAT locally owned restaurant out of business. We were reluctant to even try a place that didn't seem to want to build its own reputation based on good food, good service and fair prices. I think people here do support good local eateries, so I hope this article doesn't discourage others from trying because they think that "people would rather support chains." So not true.

cats kradle wrote on June 07, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Oh, but it is true. Just last night I said to my wife, "To heck with personal relationships and the local economy. Let's go to a chain restaurant."

Amanda wrote on June 07, 2011 at 2:06 pm

It's unfortunate that the owner blames the restaurant's closure on the community. Despite not caring for Buttitta's the first time I ate there, I tried it three times. Each time found it to be very overpriced for the quality of the food served. A small house salad (lettuce, a couple of cucumber slices, and a watered-down vinaigrette) was $4; a small cup of soup was $6. Each time I ate there the food (particularly the fettuccine Alfredo) was bland and needed salt and pepper, which wasn't provided on the tables. The wait staff was excellent, and it is too bad that they're now scrambling for jobs. I can't help but be annoyed that the owner is blaming the community. We don't solely patronize chains; we just don't patronize restaurants that aren't very good.

Bob from Champaign wrote on June 07, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Should have called Gordon Ramsay. Sounds like all the restaurant owners on his show.

gamera wrote on June 07, 2011 at 2:06 pm

We went for lunch about a month after Buttitta's opened. We were very excited because I work only 1 block from this restaurant. It took us TWO HOURS to be served food, given checks and change. Who has time for a 2-hour lunch? Not us and we never went back.

I wish I could say it was better when I went for a birthday dinner over the winter but that took three hours. The service or the kitchen set-up was not adequate to provide food in a timely manner. Maybe some people have hours to spend waiting on food. Most do not...too bad Buttitta's couldn't last.

wow1 wrote on June 08, 2011 at 7:06 am

I took my mother here for the first time a few weeks ago for Mother's Day. I'm sure all the staff remember how horrible this day was.. One of the specials on the board was a sirloin with mushrooms and onions I believe for $15.99... My mother became very excited about this. When our server came to our table, she asked what we all would like to have to drink, so we put in our drink orders, and she walked away. She then returned to apologize that they were out of the Lamb, Sirloin, Cannelloni, and a couple other entrees as well. They had several dishes with sirloin so I confirmed that they were out of the special, and was told there were no specials... the special board was still up from the day before! We also had a long wait, from the time we ordered till we received our food, over an hour. Speaking of local establishments.. How about THE GREAT IMPASTA move into this location! Their current location at Lincoln Square Mall is not very visible, and I bet if they moved in here, they would be very welcome by the community and be busy at all times of the day!

rooftop wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I was very excited when Buttita's opened up for business, I told my kids we were going to go there and we did.
I enjoyed the environment, the friendly staff...
but the kids and I had a long wait for our food, I asked for some crayons as many places have activity place mats or white paper table cloths for the kids to draw on.
The waiter did find some crayons but they looked as if they had been back in a drawer for 40 yrs. Broken bits of old crayons is what he brought out.
We laughed it off, the kids colored as we waited for our food.
When the food arrived, the waiter asked if we would like fresh grated parmesan, We did.
So he came back later with hand held chunk of parmesan and grated it with a hand held grater as if he was in his own kitchen at home... I did feel this was not sanitary but did not know what to say.
We decided not to return after thinking things were " odd " and perhaps the place needed time to iron out itself.
We never did return though. Sorry things did not go well, I had high hopes for the family run restaurant.

reader99 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

It's always unfortunate when a business doesn't succeed, it's bad for the owners and the community so I'm sorry to hear this news but not completely surprised. I think had the owners looked closer at some of the problems that were at hand rather than blaming the community for "supporting chain restaurants" it might have been more successful. We were very excited when we heard this restaurant was opening, we had loved Dom's and missed some of their signature dishes. But before we had the chance to try it 3 sets of friends went at 3 different times and all had bad experiences - too noisy and poor service. Wanting to give the restaurant a chance ourselves we went for dinner and while it wasn't a terrible experience the comments we had heard previously proved to be true. We left saying we might go back, but only if we sat in the lounge, the main dining room was just to loud to be enjoyable. We really wanted to support this restaurant, we were excited to have it open and thought it would be a new favorite, instead we kept supporting the other locally owned Italian restaurants in town where we've had more consistent dining experiences. We eat out 2-3X per week and don't support the chain restaurants, our favorites are ALL locally owned and run. So while I feel bad for the owners that it didn't work out I think the "chain restaurant" excuse is just that.

pangloss wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Sorry, but you can't blame this one on the community.

Went to Buttitta's several times with my family, and both the service and food were always sub par, when compared to similar restaurants charging similar prices. It was a nice idea, one that we were looking forward to after Dom's closed, but failed to meet expectations.

Champaign Chef wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I would first like to say that it is a shame that a business owner would attack the community in which they live for the failure of their business. But when you are serving Italian food which is in design made to be quick service and cheap plate cost and turn it into what the people of Buttita's made it now that is the true travesty. I went to Buttita's once about three weeks after they opened long enough to have the kinks worked out. I had one of the worst experiences I have ever had at a restaraunt, and this is what I do for a living. The service was awful, our waitress was more concerned with side work then our tables needs. The food to took forever and had that heat warmer glaze over the sauce that you could tell it had set in the pass window for quite some time. Which means our tables food was not cordinated properly in the kitchen. The portion sizes were completely rediculous for an Italian restaraunt especially with the plate costs. This business failed because it tried to live on a name and a legacy that is great to this town, but missed the mark big time.

Also on a side note when one talks about chains and the money going elsewhere. Most of our chains have managing partners, or chef partners. This means that local people, have bought into the franchise and own a part of the restaraunt. So does that make a privately owned restaraunt with investors any different. I dont think so. I feel bad for the employees, but this falls on the owners and only the owners.

illiniperson1 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Buttitta's was a horrible waste of space. The arrangement of the seating area made you feel like, no matter where you were sitting, you were in the middle of the restaurant and the tables were on top of each other. The service was also extremely unorganized. One time we were the only people in the restaurant and after we were there for 15 minutes that they wanted us to move one table over???? Very annoying. I attempted to like it but after several more tries I just did not like feeling it got when I was there. Twice we tried just to get pick up but it was so expensive and when the we got the order home there was always half of the order missing. We could tell they took a lot of shortcuts. Good riddance. It seems the owners are blaming the community for their bad/lack of business.

sberanek wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

A similar thing on super waiting times happened with my aunt, my mother, and myself. We were there for over an hour with nothing more than water and bread. They claimed our food was given to another table, yet when our food was brought to us, it was cold and the pasta had dried out. Obviously, we were forgotten and left for dead. Granted, the manager did comp the entire meal, but that still didn't leave us any desire to ever go back to the place.

Dom's in the old bunker on Logan St. was great. Buttitta's was not.

lmcgill2 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I feel that perhaps the space is too large to sustain a new restaurant like that.

Don Incognito wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I love patronizing locally owned restaurants and try to avoid chains as much as possible. That being said, I only ate at Buttita's once, and that was certainly enough. The food was mediocre and the service was extremely disorganized. I never went back, and frankly I'm not surprised to hear they are closing. I think it is almost offensive the owners are trying to blame the closing on the community as opposed to looking at the problems in their restaurant.

Fedupwithstatereps wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I am annoyed that John blames the community. They should have invested some of that million dollars in a working credit card machine and staff training. The four times I visited the restaurant, the credit card machine was down all four times, the service horribly SLOW and the food not so great to boot. I'm sorry that they went out of business so quickly but I would suggest they look at their business practices.

Heather J. wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I'm sad to see a local business close. We recently had a party in the banquet room. It was my Mom's Surprise 50th birthday. I can't tell you how great it was. The staff went ABOVE and BEYOND to make that party amazing. The food for the party was great and everyone was really happy. The staff helped transform the room into a beautiful party room! I had heard some rumblings about them possibly closing, so I was nervous about them closing before the party happened, but the party went on as planned without a hitch.
I'm really sad to hear that so many people have had bad experiences there. I guess we were the lucky ones. When we had dinner there, I thought it was good. I expected it to be like Dom's but nothing can ever compare to that. Our dinner certainly wasn't bad though!
As for them blaming the community, remember, this is a family that just lost so much. They're hurting and upset. Cut them some slack on that one maybe. Everyone makes mistakes. Hopefully the family will recover and be able to move on.

ssalzm495 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I was a regular at Dom's and loved it. I waited impatiently for Buttittas to open and went there several times. Each time the food was worse than before. I was there with three friends for lunch last month and we all had horrible food and decided then and there that we would never go back. I ordered an Italian beef and that is what I got - a sandwich, no juice, no pepper, no potato chips. Come on people. It is bad enough to have to request salt and pepper but to give someone a sandwich with nothing else is ridiculous. The prices were high enough that a few chips could have been thrown on the plate. Lots of people loved Chicken a la Dom and it was on Buttittas menu but they changed it. It wasn't served in a hot skillet with lots of sauce. They also were extremely chinsy with the bread - one little piece per customer.

ctharp569 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Unfortunately, I had the same experience as all of the other people posting here. I was excited to go the first time. Left disappointed that time, and the two subsequent times that I went. Slow service, high prices for mediocre food, and, one of the biggest issues in my mind - no answer on the phone, and no return phone calls about reservations. I left messages three times over a year regarding reservations, and never once got a return phone call. We showed up every time (seemed like we surprised them every time), and all was well, but it is disconcerting to make reservations with a voicemail box and not get any acknowledgement. Especially when dining for business - which I was all three times. Sorry to see them go, because I loved Dom's,love the location of Buttitta's, and generally try to avoid chains, but you could see this one coming...

givemeabreak wrote on June 07, 2011 at 4:06 pm

You've got to be kidding me. This place closed due to one thing and one thing only. Poor management. Don't blame the community for your poor management skills. No accountability for terrible managers and/or employees. What do you expect?

sander496 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 4:06 pm

HOW NICE OF THEM TO CASH MY CHECK TWO WEEKS BEFORE MY EVENT RESERVED FOR THIS SATURDAY THE 11TH AND #1 NOT CALL ME AND #2 NOT REFUND MY MONEY #3 NOT RETURN MY CALLS....SO, MR. AND MRS. BUTTITTA THANKS FOR FORCING MY PARTY TO GO TO A CHAIN RESTARAUNT!!!!!! AND YOU SHOULD MAKE GOOD ON YOUR FAMILY NAME AND RETURN YOUR CUSTOMERS MONEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

bettycat wrote on June 07, 2011 at 4:06 pm

There's not much I can add that hasn't already been stated - mediocre food, so-so service, and poor coordination between the kitchen and servers. I'm sorry the Buttitta's now have to swallow the big one here, but it's not the fault of the community. There were (very unkind) rumblings on CraigsList from the very beginning, and frankly I expected it sooner. We dined there several times, but there are a LOT of very nice locally owned establishments to choose from in our small city, we're really lucky to have such wonderful food choices. Too bad this wasn't one of them.

thechampaignlife wrote on June 07, 2011 at 5:06 pm

I really wish owners of businesses like this would make a more concerted effort to solicit anonymous feedback from its customers. The feedback being provided here right now might have helped them fix some issues to improve the business and stay open. I've got one more to add which is the reason we stopped going. The mustard crusted salmon over orzo rice and pancetta was awesome the first few times we had it. When it changed (chef changed I heard) to yellow mustard slapped on some salmon over some rice with bacon, we didn't feel any of the other dishes were worth the prices.

AAAA wrote on June 07, 2011 at 5:06 pm

NOTE that first impression matters the most. When the first time the food is served it's cold and tasteless, the service is terrible; would you go for the second time? .... Actually, We give them 3 chances and they fail all. We fill out the comment card and No Response, What do you expect?

HOCKEYDAD wrote on June 07, 2011 at 5:06 pm

My wife and I were so excited to hear about John opening another restaurant. We so loved Dom's and we had a long history with that restaurant. I asked my wife to marry me there, and we had our rehearsal dinner there. Over the years we came to know the employees, and Betty knew what we were going to order before we sat down. We ate there on the last day it was open to the public. The new place was only going to be blocks from our home, and I thought it would quickly become our go-to place. We ended up only going there 3 times, and we had all the same issues everyone else has commented on, bad service, cold food and long waits. The biggest dissapointment for us however was the new place was so big there was no longer any personal connection to the customer the old place had. Betty knew my wife and I by name, the new place had a cold chain-like feel and we never saw any of the old employees. The food was also a big dissapointment. They changed old favorites into something different. Overpriced, smaller portion sizes and pretentious presentations. I am frankly suprised they lasted as long as they did, and for John to blame this community is just plain wrong. I would have put up with the higher prices, the slow service and setting, but when you change something you have built a reputation on for years and years (the food) you cannot expect to make it. If it ain't broke, you don't fix it.

AAAA wrote on June 07, 2011 at 6:06 pm

We thought the same thing " Our go-to place"; they could have our business at least once a week, in the restaurant or bar, since we live 1 block away. But Big disappoiment :(

Sid Saltfork wrote on June 07, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Whatever your feelings about the food, and the service; a family lost their business. Included in their loss is the loss that 52 employees are feeling. Running a bar, or restaurant is a hard business. Long hours of work; and being dependent on the economy, and patrons. Best of luck to the family, and the 52 employees. I hope that the future is better for all of them.

Don Incognito wrote on June 07, 2011 at 7:06 pm

If people would rather support chains, how do John and Vicky Buttitta explain the success of other local restaurants? Black Dog is a good example. The place has excellent food, good service, and is always packed. In fact, a chain BBQ place (Famous Dave's) closed, while Black Dog consistently has a crowd. It is pretty clear the issue here wasn't the community, it was the subpar food and subpar service.

ScottC wrote on June 07, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Dom's was one of our favorites. The campiness and the lack of pretension were great. The food was probably not as good as I remember, but somehow the atmosphere really made it work. Betty (to whom we privately referred as "grandma") was a huge part of that. She and the staff would dote on our kids and really make us feel at home. We'd get some terrible bottle of chianti with the wicker wrap and stuff ourselves with about 5000 calories each. We would walk to Dom's and comfortably walk it off afterwards. We were always shocked at the bill (how small it was!). We were there a couple of times a month for years.

We went to Buttitta's once. We didn't start going to chains instead. We started going to other places where we feel comfortable and we find good and affordable. Top of the list is Fiesta Cafe followed closely by their neighbors at Bombay Grill. If we want to splurge we hit Bocaro or Escobars.

Schooter wrote on June 07, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I was a big fan of Dom's and also Buttitta's I went many times. At first like all restaurants it had its issues. but for the most part worked them all out. They went to fancy on the traditional Dom's items but later went to original preparations. I will greatly miss John and Vickie. They are wonderful people and I hope they can reincarnate in a smaller more manageable venue. I am sorry to see such bitter comments form the community over what was probably an off the cuff or misunderstood comment.

Jar1989 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Went to Buttittas for a date night with my boyfriend. We heard about it opening and were excited to try it. I made reservations a day early and when we got there they sat us in a table right next to the kitchen door. We were constantly surrounded by the waiters coming in and out of the kitchen. Not only that but the room was so oddly set up that it was so loud that we couldnt even hear each other and we were at the same table. The service was terrible and it took forever just to ask for some extras roles. The food was very bland and pasta was dry. We were disappointed and had wished we would have gone somewhere else on our date night. It is sad to blame the community for their own problems.

ddf1972 wrote on June 07, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Enjoyed the old Dom's for what it was...homestyle Italian cuisine in an old-school atmosphere. The reincarnation was a failure on almost all fronts. There are far too many good, locally owned places in CU (the ones I patronize) to spend time and money at places that don't get it. Don't blame the chains. I had better food at Jillian's, wish that place hadn't closed. I'll continue to enjoy Black Dog, Farren's, Bacaro, and and of a number of other places.

wayner63 wrote on June 08, 2011 at 7:06 am

I'm going to miss Buttitta's. I know it wasn't always smooth sailing along their one and a half year existence, but most of my experiences there were positive. Best wishes to John and Vicky as they transition to the next chapter in their lives.

Champguy wrote on June 08, 2011 at 7:06 am

First of all, Dom's was never really good, it was local and it was personal. I remember when Betty came over and asked if we enjoyed the salad, she had just picked the cherry tomatoes out of her garden that morning. I also think there was a cat running around? Yes that's gross, but it was like eating in her home.

I can't believe I am on here writing a comment, but I just couldn't let the Champaign community take the blame for Buttita's! Putting a billboard over the head of another family owned restraunt was mistake #1, but we still eventually tried it. Mistake #2 was after sitting at a table for 15 minutes with no service we left. The manager offered to "comp" our meal, but we said to just use this experience and the money to improve service in the future and left. Mistake #3 the food was terribly bland, boring, and expensive when we did finally return about 2 months ago. It was hard to convince 4 people who had been there to go back with me so I could experience it myself.

Mistake #5: Don't blame the local people from the city of Champaign/Urbana for your failure of trying to ride the coat tails of your parents! I'm sure they worked their Buttita's off to make Dom's work.

BTW. . . I'm eating tomorrow night at that same local restraunt you tried to steal business from with your billboard.

Champaignlady wrote on June 09, 2011 at 8:06 am

First of all, let me set you straight as far as the signage goes! John bought a package and he did not have a say on the location. When he found out about them placing one over Minneci's he called and told them to remove it!!!.....but they didn't. He was very upset about them placing a sign there!
Yes, there were problems when they opened without the original Dom's staff. John had his hands full trying to teach a whole new kitchen the old receipes and allowing a new chef to have some say.
It didn't help matters with the untimely shock of CANCER and being absent from the business while going through many Chemo treatments. Trying to deal with this disaster and trying to fix the problems with the business has been devastating.
They only found out on Monday that it was over and had to close their doors. So please show some compassion everyone! They have lost everything and they are grieving!

CUIllini5 wrote on June 09, 2011 at 10:06 pm

I have a hard time believing at all that the billboard company wouldn't cover that. You must always approve the map of your billboard locations before posting. I've worked with 8-10 different companies that are ranging from Springfield, IL all the way up to by Chicago and they all operate the same you in that you must approve art and locations before posting. Even if they bought a package of random locations for cheaper than regular rate, I'm sure they had to approve a location list prior to posting. And if for some reason they did not notice the placement of the board they could get it removed within 7-10 business days. I've never worked with a billboard company in Illinois that wouldn't work with you to do the best they could to make it right because they are struggling just as much as the next guy to make a profit.

It is absolutely awful about Buttitta's for the family and all of the hard working individuals who made their livelihood there. This loss should not come at the defamation of a local billboard company or the public not frequenting the business. I went to this restaurant a few times and thought it was beautiful inside and had a good quality of food, but the amount of money they spent renovating had to be quite a bit to overcome. I hope the family can recover as fast as possible, and that someone can make that beautiful building into a successful business.

Batman wrote on June 08, 2011 at 8:06 am

My wife has already described the miserable experiences we had at Buttita's. A strongly worded comment card brought zero response from management. What I don't understand is the local versus chain controversy - Chain restaurants employ locals as do locally owned restaurants. Doesn't that benefit this community? Chains generate a whole host of tax revenues in this community. They spend advertising Dollars in this community. If some portion of the profits are remitted back to their corporate HQ's so what? How do we know what the owners of locally owned businesses are doing with their profits - buying condos in Florida maybe?

Janet wrote on June 08, 2011 at 8:06 am

I always meant to get to Buttittas but never did. Outside of the amazing array of bad experiences others are writing about, economics surely played a role--what a terrible time to invest in such a huge (and expensive) space. My dining choices in the past 2 or so years have been mainly about economics: I can't remember when my last raise was, our property taxes keep going up, and restaurant food gets more and more expensive. I do regularly support about 3 local restaurants, but like many others, I go out much less these days. People are funny that way--if you take decide to spend your hard-earned cash and walk away disappointed, you probably won't be back.

gpence wrote on June 08, 2011 at 9:06 am

Dom's was good -- very good. As someone else said, they were old-school Italian. Fresh tossed salad, hot garlic bread and excellent entrees like chicken ala Dom and meat manicotti. Unfortunately, Buttittas was a different model. They were (in my opinion) trying to compete with Biaggi's and Olive Garden. The chicken ala Dom was different the 2 times I tried it. Frankly, it was dry and not nearly as rich-tasting as the old Dom's recipe. Gone was the salad and garlic bread, and the prices went up too.

Personally, I think they chose the wrong business model (upscale as opposed to family-style) when they opened Buttittas, but that's not my call. Sorry to see their business fail, but people need to understand the comments were made out of pain and frustration -- cut them some slack.

Good luck, John and Vicky.

And for the record, my wife and I ate at Dom's regularly and I never saw a cat in the restaurant. I'm allergic to cats and I'm sure I would have noticed that!

JRR wrote on June 08, 2011 at 12:06 pm

As a long-time fan of Dom's, I really looked forward to its renaissance as Buttitta's. Of course, without Betty's warm and welcoming presence, the successor could never truly live up to the original -- but I had high hopes.

Even allowing for the sad fact that Betty was gone, Buttitta's never quite captured my affection like Dom's did. The setting was too upscale for my tastes, but might have been acceptable had the food measured up to that at Dom's. The service was spotty and the atmosphere was not as warm and relaxing as I had hoped. It was disappointing enough that I preferred to salivate over the memory of the many fine meals I had at Dom's over 25+ years, rather than repeatedly trying but failing to live up to those memories at Dom's successor.

Perhaps it is impossible to re-create the past, but I wish Buttitta's had successfully captured the components of Dom's that many of us loved. The formula was simple: good Italian food from family recipes, a warm, casual, and relaxing atmosphere, and good value for the dollar.

I incidentally do not dine at chain restaurants, and regularly patronize the many fine locally-owned restaurants in town. I'm truly sorry that Buttitta's never managed to make it into my regular rotation as Dom's had in the past.

gdl532 wrote on June 08, 2011 at 4:06 pm

It's a shame they didn't make it, but given the size of the building I'm sure rent alone was a pretty big nut. I'm sure you'd have to sell a lot of pasta before you even started to cover operating expenses. Guess I'm not surprised given the history of the locally owned restaurants over the last 15-20 years in CU. Good luck to the family I hope they land on their feet!

JBK wrote on June 08, 2011 at 5:06 pm

Like many other posters, I also avoid chain restaurants. In fact, I avoid non-chain establishments that are located too closely to the likes of an Applebee's or TGI Friday's. I fear that the stink of the unwashed masses who eat at such loathsome places will waft in my direction and ruin my fine-dining experience. In this regard, I'm certainly more pure than any other commentator here and thus, a better all-around person. As such, none of you are worthy of any further writing from me on this subject. By the way, when is the next meeting of the Pathological Elitist Club? Thursday?

johnny wrote on June 08, 2011 at 7:06 pm

This is surreal. Every time I went, my meal came much faster than I expected it. The service ranged from good to great. My friends never paid more than $10 for full meals.

I come here and read that service was awful and food was overpriced. And no, I never went to Dom's. My friends and I just had consistently good experiences at Buttitta's, and I'm sad to see it go.

Champguy wrote on June 08, 2011 at 8:06 pm

The service there was always awful, take a look at this article from February 4th, 2010. There are also some curious comments about people of Champaignshould support a local restaurant. . . sound familiar?

http://the217.com/articles/view/buttitta_s_falls_slightly_short_of_expec...

So, they obviously never learned and my suggestion would be for them to move on and open a restaurant in another town since they have now aliented everyone in Champaign.

johnny wrote on June 08, 2011 at 8:06 pm

The service there was "always" awful, and they obviously "never" learned based on one article from when they first opened a year and a half ago. That's helpful.

ssalzm495 wrote on June 08, 2011 at 11:06 pm

I truly value locally owned restaurants & bars. Some favorites are Farrens, Black Dog, Silver Creek, Courier, Apple Dumping, Esquire, Monicals and UJ's. I always hope for the best when they open and give new ones the benefit of the doubt for a while. I was very sad that the old Sadorus Pub opened and closed so quickly. I see future failure for An-Sun at the Crossing as well as the newly opened Thai restaurant in the same area. My Thai is probably close behind. The restaurant business is very difficult. People like comfort and quirkly. I think the Apple Dumpling has the key. Offer a few good homecooked entrees, and regular specials. Don't try to do everything. But do what you do right! The strangest thing Buttittas did was skimp on bread. Bread is cheap! If your portions are skimpy, let them eat bread.

old enough wrote on June 09, 2011 at 5:06 am

I have read the many responses to this story with a growing sense of discouragement. Do the critics had valid points? Probably. Do these same critics have a sense of compassion? No. Could the Buttittas have been more temperate in their comments? Yes. For those of you who have never put everything you have into a business venture, only to lose everything you have (probably most of the critics), you will never understand the emotion involved in the end of a dream like theirs. You can only understand your one minute of fame. The minute when you read your thoughts in a blog! Congratulations to all of you. You should be proud of yourselves.

By the way, I am not a member of the Buttitta family, only a person who knows them and understands their passion about their dreams. An aside to the News-Gazette: Your comments regarding posting on blogs ask contributors to avoid personal attacks. I would ask the editors to review their standards regarding some of these "contributions".

go'bri399 wrote on June 09, 2011 at 11:06 am

This is very sad. I found Buttita's to be a great restaurant, with great food and great service...and LOCAL! John and Vicky did a terrific job and it is always sad to lose a local business, especially when it was as good as it was.

lovie_01 wrote on June 09, 2011 at 3:06 pm

I've never been to Buttitta's as I don't care for Italian food, but my husband went for lunch several times and enjoyed it.
I think it is a shame that one quote in the article has caused such a negative reaction from the community. It is understandable that the owners are upset about the failure of the restaurant, but blaming others is never the right course of action. Obviously, the restaurant had some problems and they were never able to recover. It is difficult for most restaurants to make it and with a lot of people having less and less money to spend on eating out, it makes it that much harder.

opinionated wrote on June 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Having worked at Buttittas from day one, it made me sad to see all the great peole who worked there lose their jobs. What sucked about it the worst though is the fact that two of the nicest people who invested so much financially in to this venture had to shut their restaurant down. Some of the comments that were made were out of frustration. It has only been four days since John and Vicki made the decision to close and I think they need to be given some time to digest what happened and move on. Had this article been written say sometime next week, I am sure they would have chosen their words more carefully.
Having said that, I can tell you first hand that everyone there, both in the kitchen and in the dining room, did the best they could to make Buttittas the best dining experience in Champaign. Did we succeed all the time? No we didn't. We did, however, try. In the restaurant business, it is nearly next to impossible to please every single customer all the time. Were there wrinkles that needed to be ironed out? Yes there were. In the end though, all of our combined efforts were not enough to keep Buttittas going. Before the next person who comes on and decides to lay blame on one person's frustrated comments, please understand that the restaurant business (especially if you are starting it from scratch) is a tough one. There are many things going on that need the owner's attention at any given time and it is very stressful. The Buttittas did the best they could under the circumstances and their venture did not work out the way they wanted it to.

myknivesaresharp wrote on June 11, 2011 at 12:06 pm

@opinionated has drunk the kool-aid. John ignored quality and discarded the opening staff that mattered. It took too long to happen in spite of a $154k federal loan last summer- and what happened to that? Also, warnings have been printed on cigarette packages for years now...

johnny wrote on June 11, 2011 at 11:06 pm

Gee, I'm so glad The News-Gazette doesn't allow personal attacks.

TeamButtitta wrote on June 14, 2011 at 5:06 pm

People can really be so harsh and heartless. The funny thing about most of these negative posts are people are complaining about issues the restaurant were having right after they opened! Of course there are going to be issues with a new establishment! With time, the wrinkles are ironed out. Buttittas had a wonderful atmosphere and amazing food. I personally know great Italian food and can say that their food was closest to some I have eaten in Palermo than any other restaurant in Champaign. The servers were all polite, and one could tell they all got along and were very close like family. It's very sad to see a local business close and for the Buttitta family to have to start all over. This family has been through enough. Our prayers are with you. John, Vicky, and the rest of the Buttittas---You still have people who LOVE you and support you!!! You will always be local celebrities to this area and the best of luck to you!!
Sincerely, your biggest fan :)

Batman wrote on June 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm

@teambuttitta: I realize the horse has already bolted. The comments my wife and I posted were based on experiences we had after the restaurant had been open for at least 12 months. We submitted a comment card less than 8 weeks before the joint closed. If the owners don't read the comment cards, who does? We spent ver $80 (with tip) on a dinner we sent back to the kitchen, virtually uneaten. This prompted a friend of ours who worked in the kitchen (and didn't get paid when they closed) , who had nothing to do with our dinner, to walk out and ask us if there was a problem; not our waitress, not the kitchen manager, not the restaurant manager or the owners. We then spent another $60 at the bar just so we could hang out with our buddy from the kitchen. I have eaten a lot of Italian food around the world, including Italy and while you may think Buttitta's came the closest, they sure were a far cry - when you receive a meal that is barely thawed, much less not cooked, I wouldn't call that "good food". I actually have a friend in the area who speaks fluent Italian and was a chef in Milan for over 12 years. It doesn't matter what cuisine it represents. When someone makes their own bed, they should be prepared to lie in it. It would be different if they were staying in a hotel.