'The best memories I ever had:' Former Lake Country restaurateur laments loss after fire | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'The best memories I ever had:' Former Lake Country restaurateur laments loss after fire

Happy days at Ricardo's.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Sue Miller
September 13, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Even though Sue Miller no longer owns the Lake Country Italian restaurant that was recently destroyed by fire, she still found hearing news of the event devastating.

Miller, together with her then-husband Ricardo Scebba, put almost 20 years of blood, sweat, and tears, into what was then Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen. And while the couple may have sold the restaurant two years ago, she's still crushed to hear it's been destroyed.

"You can't destroy memories but it was heartbreaking," Miller told iNFOnews.ca. "(It) just broke my heart to see it."

A fire broke out in the early hours of Sept. 7 at the Holiday Park RV and Condo Resort on Commonwealth Road in Kelowna. It destroyed the building which housed what is now The Italian Kitchen restaurant and a convenience store. A day later the Kelowna RCMP released a statement saying the cause of the fire was suspicious and they were investigating.

For Miller, the memories of the restaurant were an inaugural part of her life. Almost two decades before it became a sister restaurant to the well-known Vernon establishment, The Italian Kitchen, Miller and her ex-husband opened Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen.

Its location wasn't exactly restaurant-friendly.

"I used to say 'little restaurant between two trailer parks, a dead-end road, near the old railway tracks,'" Miller said.

Somehow the couple managed to make it work for 18 years.

Prior to opening Ricardo’s, the couple ran a little bistro in the same building. It opened in 1996 and was called Quackers because of its proximity to Duck Lake. It had an electric stove, a microwave, and not much else. Miller was pregnant with her fourth child when they opened. After five years at Quackers, they started working on opening Ricardo’s.

Miller said they'd work all day transforming the space into a restaurant then head upstairs and work at Quackers at night.

"We built the kitchen, we built the bar... the deck... it was a lot of work, and a lot of great friends that came onboard and helped us," Miller said.

In 2001, after four months of renovating they opened the doors.

"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon. It took two years for the word to get out, and once it got out, we were beating them off with a stick," she said. "We had such a good following."

Miller worked front of house, while Scebba ran the kitchen. They employed all their children over the years, and modestly Miller credits everyone else for making it work.

"Always treat your staff well," she says. "Treat your staff like family.... every single night after work we had a family-style dinner."

In an industry known for its high turnover, running the place for 18 years is somewhat of an achievement.

"We were right there every single day," she said. "We gave up weddings, and barbeques, parties with our friends, but we loved what we did and we did it well together."

However, it started to take its toll.

"We got divorced in 2013, but I'm really surprised we didn't get divorced earlier, because we had four kids at home (while) doing this," Miller said.

While the couple continued to work with each other, even after the divorce, it was difficult to keep it going.

"We tried to make it work, and it was too hard, we did it for a long time," Miller said. "People were amazed that there was less bloodshed than expected."

Ultimately, in 2018, after 17 years the couple sold Ricardo’s Mediterranean Kitchen.

The restaurant became The District, but lasted less than a year before being purchased again and becoming the Italian Kitchen.

Miller says she's sorry for the owners of the Italian Kitchen, their staff, and all the locals who rely on it.

"It is with sadness that The Italian Kitchen Group announces the closure of The Italian Kitchen Lake Country due to a fire," the restaurant wrote on its Facebook page.

iNFOnews.ca couldn't confirm whether they would reopen, but Miller asks why anyone would open a restaurant during COVID.

Miller said she hasn't yet gone to see the site where her restaurant once was. She knows it will be emotional and thinks it will be like a punch to the stomach.

"Like seeing any home I was raised in burnt and destroyed," she said. "I know I will be heartbroken.... those are the best memories I ever had."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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