Rodolpho “Rudy” Moreno is loving owning his first restaurant, 700°. He just wishes he didn’t have to contend with the previous owner’s reputation.
“I was suffering for the first month because his reputation was so bad,” Moreno said.
Moreno bought out the location and equipment for his pizzeria from Joe DeVellis, proprietor of Oregano Joe’s on the Post Road. DeVellis failed to make his own restaurant work in that location following a suspected salmonella outbreak that allegedly sent at least one customer to the hospital. After a forced shutdown, the Orange Health Department declared his kitchen and equipment were sanitary and safe for preparing food again but, the damage to his reputation was already done.
“He told us he had some run-ins with the health department,” said Moreno. “We never knew he had been in the news and was being sued.”
DeVellis has no connection to the property and business Moreno is running. Only the address and some of the cleaned and health inspected kitchen equipment are the same. Morena didn’t even keep the salad dressing.
“One of the first things we did was throw everything out,” he said. “There was a lot of packaged and frozen meats and vegetables. We make everything fresh, even our sauce. It’s more work to say, bread the chicken ourselves. But it makes a huge difference.”
Morena, 22, said he’s been working in restaurants since he was at least 6. His family has been in the business for 20 years and he’s grown up doing everything from deliveries to running the kitchen.
“It all started with my uncles making sauce and my grandmother putting everything together,” Morena said.
Morena said he thinks DeVellis could have avoided a lot of the negative attention by owning that his restaurant had an issue. When the health department shut him down, DeVellis stated mechanical issues forced the closure. Meanwhile a court case involving salmonella was being drawn against him.
“If something happens you have to tell your customers, the people who are supporting you, that you care about them and you are taking care of it,” Moreno said.
As 700° gets ready to enter it’s third month in operation, Moreno said he hopes word of mouth keeps spreading. He’s seeing repeat customers and things are starting to pick up. He just hopes more people start to understand that 700° is not Oregano Joe’s under a new name.