Celebrating a strong, creative, resilient Lunenburg County
NOW, MORE THAN EVER...
Story by Tina Hennigar
Joey Richard was living in Montreal when a friend living on the South Shore called him and said, ‘Joey, you have to come here.’
He came for a 3-week visit and hasn’t left. That was four years ago. It was a move he doesn’t regret for a second.
Joey was an opera singer formally trained at the Montreal Conservatory of Music. “As an opera singer, you have to speak Italian. And living in Montreal as a student, I worked in a lot of restaurants. I’ve cooked and served all varieties of foods,”.
In deciding to open a restaurant in Bridgewater, Joey had a lot of ideas. But the location was never in question. “King Street! I see so much potential on this street. Everyone who I told I was going to open an Italian restaurant said, ‘great idea, but don’t do it in Bridgewater’. They were wrong,” he said. Joey looked to other businesses around him and said, “People will pay for good food here.”And so, his restaurant, La Casetta, was born. “I started a family business, but I don’t have a family,” he laughed. “So, I decided to create one,” Joey said of his staff of 4, moving from a 200 square foot location to a 1200 square foot location.
The parking that is such a hot topic of conversation doesn’t bother him at all. “I come from Montreal where you park out of the city and have to take the Metro into the city because there is no parking.” Joey shared a story that, during his last visit to Montreal, it took him 6-hours to get where he needed to go.
“I have parking right outside my window. That is impossible elsewhere,” he said enthusiastically – his enthusiasm is contagious by the way.
The food is made from scratch. His most popular dish is Tortellini Gigi, which is beef stuffed pasta with a rose sauce, bacon and mushrooms. And for the vegetarian, the Ravioli Crema di Fungi which is ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce. But Joey’s favourite dish to make is Penne Sergio, pasta with a tomato sauce and spicy sausage. He created and named it in honour of his late brother, Sergio. “We were very close. I wanted to create a pasta dish in honour of him. I love to hear his name every day.”
He is quick to point out that he doesn’t offer everything. “I have no deep fryer. If you want a burger, there are many other places where you can get a good burger. You can even bring it here, but you can’t get one here.” When asked if he has a vegan option, he said he doesn’t. “That means there is space in Bridgewater for someone to open a vegan restaurant,” he laughed. “And if someone wants to come here and open a vegan restaurant, I will help you. I will paint for free,” he said of his commitment to his new hometown.
The response he has had from customers has been fantastic.
“People are in shock and come back again and again. I have people driving in from Bedford just to eat here,” He said.
Of course, COVID-19 brought some challenges. He installed old windows between sections. “People feel safe here,” he said of the precautions he’s put in place.
So, what does the future hold for Joey and his family at La Casetta? “COVID showed us that everything can change so quickly, so I don’t really plan too much.” Joey hopes to offer really good Italian wine soon and local beer. “Without sticking to a plan, I am able to respond quickly to what the people want. And for now, they want more pasta!”