Portofino’s Pizzeria has new owners

Portofino’s Pizzeria has new owners. Owners who are new to this restaurant, but who are certainly not new to the restaurant business or to Orcas Island.

“My son worked there when he was in high school and he is now 36 years old, so I guess you could say owning it has been on my mind for a while,” said John Messinger, who purchased the longtime Orcas restaurant from Woody DeWoody with the new year.

“I just let Woody know officially a couple of years ago, though.”

Will the new ownership mean changed menu, new décor, and different hours? No, because John believes in Orcas tradition and history. He thinks that historical businesses on Orcas are important.

“Woody did a good job of developing a solid, reputable business and I was able to buy it at a fair price,” John said. “One of my other goals was to keep my family working during a recessive environment and another was to buy a business that has meaning to the people in this community.”

He said it was important to keep Portofino’s as a medium-priced family option for Orcas dining. He wants Portofino’s to remain a place for business lunches and family dinners. Even three of the employees remain from the old ownership. John wanted to buy the restaurant to keep it run by locals. He has lived on Orcas for 30 years and started in the hospitality industry when he was 17; he was the food and beverage service manager at Rosario’s for three years.

Jessie Messinger and her partner Karen Shepherd will manage the restaurant.

The Messingers and Shepherd said that they will bring new energy to the business. They will freshen up the ingredients and improve the kitchen practices but changes will be subtle. They have added a staff person and will add more as the season and the business warrant them. Any additions to the menu, décor or hours will only happen with the input of the Orcas Island community.

“We want to improve on what Woody has done, “ John said. “We want to maintain and honor the Portofino’s tradition by only improving. The service and quality will improve with Karen in the kitchen and Jessie out front. Flavors will be enhanced, but there will be no dramatic changes. Slow and steady works better. Our goal is to accommodate the desires of our clientele. We know the restaurant had a good strong menu.”

The restaurant’s current and evolving menu can be viewed at www.portofinopizzeria.com.

John’s management company manages the Landmark Inn. His wife, Sami, owns the Olga Store, located in the leased historic building.

“We are looking forward to having fun at Portofino’s,” Jessie said.