WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – After more than three decades in business, a Winston-Salem restaurant has closed its doors for good.
Paul’s Fine Dining, an Italian Restaurant, was established in 1988 by Paul Perello. A meal at Paul’s gave patrons a dining experience that was nothing short of a dinner trip to Italy.
An auction held Friday marked the end of an era for one of the first fine dining establishments in Winston-Salem. It was an emotional day for the people who spent years of their lives there.
Even on this last day, if you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the grand piano with the fingers of Ronnie Reeves tickling the ivories one last time. It was that iconic sound that patrons at Paul’s adored.
Reeves was a long time fixture in the bar area, and he says it’s hard to believe this is it.
“I’m not gonna lie. It hurts. When you work with people as many years as I worked with them, it’s like a part of your family is just gone,” Reeves said.
Marcello Perello is the younger of Paul’s two sons. He grew up in the restaurant and that’s why this day is so tough.
His father grew up in Italy and learned his craft across Europe before heading to New York City and then, in 1988, opening the restaurant in Winston Salem.
Marcello took it over as an adult and always tried to emulate the way his father did things.
“I think he just grew up learning how to take care of people and appreciating what he had and trying to help others around him,” Marcello Perello said.
Paul died in 2015 after a battle with cancer, and at that point things were already tough. He had been injured in a fall in the restaurant and later assaulted in the parking lot trying to break up a fight. Medical bills and the cancer took a toll on finances.
The 2008 recession had also taken it’s toll, and the restaurant was aging and needed some updating. That all took a backseat to Paul’s health until after his death.
“We tried to do some renovations here to help build business, which we desperately needed. But not too long after that, the shopping center was sold, and we were told we would have to move soon,” Marcello said.”When you know you can’t stay here, it doesn’t make sense to put money into it.”
They worked out rental extensions with new landlords but then 2020 hit, and the COVID-19 shutdown was the final nail.
“We made everything fresh from scratch, so our food costs was rather high so we depended heavily on alcohol sales and dine in for that extra revenue,” Marcello said.
So now the contents of the restaurant, from top to bottom, spoons, forks, plates, bowls, ovens, fryers and that grand piano are all up for auction.
Marcello Perello may not be able to save the restaurant, but he does plan on preserving his father’s legacy.
“Right now, the number one thing on my mind is figuring out how to keep my father’s legacy going and keep his memory alive,” Marcello said.
He said he hopes to use social media to carry on the tradition of his father’s recipes.
“Not too much we can do about it. You just have to count your blessings and reflect on the memories and be very grateful for what we were able to accomplish here,” he said.