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Tanya Fraioli and Giuseppe Forte, left, created and operated Vivi Pizzeria in Woodinville before selling the business to Rick and Riesa Ragan in January 2022.

Following a year of ups and downs, from pandemic closures to fire damage, the owners of Vivi Pizzeria are going back to their roots in Italy.

Husband-and-wife duo Tanya Fraioli and Giuseppe Forte decided to trade the restaurant for a quieter lifestyle with more free time to spend with family and friends. 

New owners Rick and Riesa Ragan took over management on Monday, Jan. 3.

The couple’s children have all left home to study at universities, Fraioli said. The opportunity came up for them to purchase a home in Sicily, Italy. Forte grew up in Italy, she said, and many family members still reside there.

“The restaurant business is a very time-consuming business,” Fraioli said. “You cannot leave easily. And although we have been so fortunate to find such success, it has come at a personal cost of missing some special moments and time with loved ones. Now, we will be free to make that a reality.”

Forte’s father died two years ago. Due to demands of the business, he was only able to visit him once in about five years, Fraioli said. Her family also looks forward to spending time with them in their Sicilian home. 

“I want to say to our community, ‘Thank you for everything. Without you, Vivi would not have been possible.” she said. “It's been a great seven years. Please keep coming to try an even better Vivi.’”

The new owners don’t plan on making major changes to the restaurant, Rick Ragan said. They both said the founders created “magic” with Vivi Pizzeria. 

Rick wanted to step away from the corporate sector to return to his passion of fine dining. In 2019, the couple bought Montalcino Ristorante Italiano in Issaquah. 

“I’ve always dreamed about owning my own place,” he said. “That’s what led to buying Montalcino. We just fell in love with that little restaurant. We fell in love with the customers and the staff.”

When the couple heard that Vivi Pizzeria was looking to change ownership, they jumped at the opportunity. 

“We chose Rick and Riesa Ragan for many reasons, but first and foremost, we know they will take care of the staff,” Fraioli said. “They don't have egos that sometimes come with owning a business.”

At Vivi Pizzeria, the new owners hope to network with the surrounding wineries and support their neighboring businesses in any way possible, Rick said.

“I'm looking forward to getting to know the Woodinville community in a way that I never have,” Riesa said. “I can’t wait to integrate ourselves into the community so that people recognize us and know us by name.”

The couple’s love story all started in a kitchen. The two met as employees of Hyatt Regency Bellevue. Rick was the executive chef, while Riesa was the catering sales manager. 

Growing up in Micronesia, Rick was surrounded by diverse flavors and an emphasis on food for gatherings.

His passion for culinary arts continued to expand after graduating from California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Rick was then chosen for the San Francisco Hyatt’s corporate training program, where he became an executive sous chef at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. Eventually, he was drawn to Washington for a position as executive chef at the Bellevue Hyatt. 

Riesa is lived in Washington for most of her life. She spent eight years in hospitality, then pursued a career in human resources. Now, Riesa is the director of human resources for a King County government agency.

“We love what Giuseppe and Tanya have already created so we want to piggyback on that,” Riesa said. “We want the employees to feel like they're a part of a family.”

Fraioli said she will miss the friends she has made in the local wine scene and Woodinville community. 

“We have been through so much together as a team: from our own restaurant tragedies such as the fire, to personal struggles our employees have had such as losing their parents or siblings too soon, or battling the life challenges that come our way,” Fraioli said, reminiscing on her experience with Vivi Pizzeria.

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