Whitehall restaurant has new name, same familiar faces

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 Messenger photo by Dianne Garrett

Robin Kefauver, owner and chef of Robin’s Italian Cafe (formerly Butch’s Italian Ristorante) is flanked by Karen Skinner, her mom and the restaurant’s bartender, left, and contest winner Venus Morrison.  Morrison suggested the new name for the restaurant, along with 11 others with the same suggestion. However, hers had the earliest date, therefore, she was awarded $100 gift certificate October 5.

Butch’s Italian Ristorante on Main Street in Whitehall officially has a new name, but the family-oriented establishment stands strong on tradition, and will remain a fixture in the community. 

Robin Kefauver purchased the restaurant two years ago, and had that amount of time to re-name it, as Butch Zurbriggen opened another by the same name in Canal Winchester.  

So, Kefauver thought it only appropriate to turn to her long-time patrons for their input.

She never dreamed that she would receive 350 suggestions when she decided to make it a contest.  Even though it seemed a bit overwhelming to Kefauver, it was quite encouraging to realize that she maintains such a devoted customer base.

One suggestion from Susan and Keith McCollom had a little note attached that sums up how customers feel.  "We think the name should maintain the charm of the restaurant owner, so we’d like it to have a form of Robin’s name."     

Many began frequenting the restaurant when it was known as Armando’s, and have become family over many years and three owners.

Robin’s Italian Cafe was the winning suggestion submitted by 12 people.  However, the one with the earliest date stamp came from Venus Morrison of Reynoldsburg.  She received a $100 gift certificate to the restaurant from Kefauver on Oct. 5.  

She was accompanied by her daughter, Justine Morrison and family friend, Kaitlyn White, both 10.  

Morrison said it is her favorite restaurant, and is where she dines at least once a month.  She loves the salad, bread and make-your-own- pasta menu items.   Justine likes spaghetti and meatballs.  The Morrisons were planning to return to the restaurant the following day for dinner, with Kaitlyn as their guest.  

Kefauver is also sending $25 gift certificates to the other 11 who made the same name suggestion.

Kefauver has a similar history with her restaurant career as her mentor before her.  Like Zurbriggen, she came to work at the age of 14 – June 11, 1990, to be exact.  

"I started the day after I got my work permit," stated Kefauver.  "Butch started at 13 mowing the yard and doing odd jobs, and he hired me to do the same."  

Like her mentor, she continued moving up the ranks, bussing tables, serving, cooking, and finally becoming head chef and manager at 21.

When Zurbriggen decided to sell Butch’s to open another by the same name, she was able to purchase it, at the ripe old age of 29.  

"I grew up in this business, and Butch gave me all the same chances he was given by the Armando family," Kefauver said.

Over the past two years she and her mom, Karen Skinner, who works as the bartender,  put personal touches with new curtains and updated decor.  

Now the restaurant officially bears her name, and she couldn’t be more proud.  She is excited about her new sign, which should be in place some time in November.  

"I want to thank everyone for their ideas.  Everyone knows Robin, and this place is Robin," the owner said.

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