VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - As the weather steadily gets warmer, John Mannino has hope.
"I think it's going to be a good summer," said the chef and owner of Mannino's Italian Bistro before adding, "Hopefully."
Mannino and his business partners opened Mannino's' Oceanfront location on Atlantic Avenue six years ago. He also owns a Mannino's location on Princess Anne Road and Fish and Slips on the harbor in Portsmouth.
Just as it did for so many restaurants, the COVID-19 pandemic did a number on Mannino's businesses, but the Virginia Beach resort area was especially hit hard.
Mannino tells News 3 the loss of summer tourists and annual events at the Oceanfront due to the pandemic was difficult to overcome.
Fortunately, Mannino's -- known for house-made fresh mozzarella, homemade meatballs and award-winning she-crab soup -- was able to rely on strong support from locals through takeout sales.
"The people supporting us in the community, I'd like to thank all of them that have come out. Even if you just ordered a she crab soup to-go through GrubHub and it showed up at your house, you helped a business stay alive," he said. "I know a lot of restaurants have closed and won't open back up."
With the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines and, more recently, an easing of restrictions from Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Mannino is looking forward to a redux in 2021.
He says he already notices more people at Oceanfront hotels and sales through this point of the year have remained steady with non-pandemic years; a good sign.
"Our hopes are very high. I think this is going to be a fantastic season for us. You, myself, everyone stayed home last year. No one did their vacations, no one went out to eat as much as they normally did," he said. "I think we're going to get a lot more business this summer. Hotels are filling up a lot more."
Mannino's Italian Bistro at the Oceanfront is open seven days a week starting at 5 p.m.