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Pandemic hits close to home for Italian restaurant owner in Oceanside

Posted at 5:54 PM, Mar 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-31 22:35:49-04

OCEANSIDE (KGTV) -- For as long as he can remember, Pino Batallico loved the atmosphere of restaurants.

He shared a picture with 10News of him working behind the bar of a restaurant in Italy when he was 8-years-old. He made 25 cents a week.

Batallico was born and raised in Italy. All his relatives are still in his home country. He is devastated to see how the Coronavirus pandemic has affected it, with more than 12,000 deaths so far.

“I think it’s very scary. It breaks my heart,” Batallico said.

In Oceanside, he is feeling the effects of the pandemic through his restaurant Venetos. Pino and his employees still cook up good meals for anyone who wants them.

“It doesn't matter if I have a penny or not. I'll still be here,” Batallico said.

He said his business is down about 75 percent since the countywide order that prohibits dine-in service at restaurants. He is trying not to lay off any of his 11 employees, although he has had to cut his restaurant’s hours.

The restaurant is a place he loves with customers who love him back.

“He’s like a brother from another mother!” said customer and now friend, Jesse Teves. Teves said he met Batallico more than 20 years ago. Teves has celebrated important milestones over the years at Pino’s former restaurant in Encinitas and now at Venetos.

“He's very humble. He always looks out for the customer,” Teves said. “It just naturally happened that we bonded and he became family.”

Batallico said he will cook any Italian dish the customer wants, even if it is not on the menu. Like so many others, he is trying to survive with take out and delivery orders.

“Whatever you like to do, we will do for you… to be safe,” Batallico said.

His restaurant is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Monday and Tuesday, it is open from 4 to 9 p.m.