Where It All Began
Pepeo grew up in Milan, Italy, where his father owned and ran 2 different successful restaurants. The family of 4 spent their summers in Varazze, where Pepeo’s father also ran a popular open-air night club, with live bands and well known performers. Europeans gathered there to enjoy the beautiful lifestyle of summer in the Riviera.
In his late teen years Pepeo started working with his father in his restaurant in Milan, later becoming co- owner, where he learned how important exceptional ingredients, quality of food, consistency and love of your customers is in the restaurant business.
Karren was born in Zimbabwe and immigrated to Canada at the age of 8 with her British parents and younger sister. She grew up in Stony Plain and left to work in the fashion industry, traveling and living in Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. Karren ended up working with Pepeo’s sister in Milan in 1993 and she introduced Karren and Pepeo. It was love at first sight and they were married in 1994 in Varazze, Italy.
In 1997 the couple moved to the Caribbean Island of Grenada where they bought a share in a small bakery. Pepeo grew the business, not only to supply baked goods to the supermarkets and restaurants, but also into a successful pasta and pizza hot spot. In 2003 they became sole owners of the bakery and restaurant.
Family gathers here
Their 3 children were born in Milan and Grenada during their 15 years while on the island and their travels between Italy and Canada to visit their families. In 2011, Karren returned to Canada permanently to be close to her family and settled with their children in Spruce Grove. Pepeo joined them in 2013, finally leaving their island life behind. In 2014 Porta Romana was born and the project came to realization.
The couple worked together to create Porta Romana, Karren designing & decorating the restaurant while Pepeo designed the traditional style Italian menu. After working together for 2 years with their chef, they decided to part ways, as the couple wanted to change direction, incorporating more of a local twist on the traditional flavours of their menu.
Chef Aaron Smentek, born & raised in Edmonton, was ready to lead the kitchen and take Porta Romana in the direction Karren & Pepeo dreamed of. Aaron is a Red Seal Chef, trained at Nait in Culinary Arts, specializing in International, local & Italian cuisine. He worked at Hardware Grill under Chef Larry Stewart, XIX under Chef Andrew Fung & at the Westin Hotel under Chef Ryan O’Flynn. Since 2016, Karren, Pepeo & Aaron collaborate & work together in their kitchen, as well as front of house, sharing their love & passion for delicious, authentic food & warm, caring service.
Pictured: Jovy, Pepeo and Aaron.
Spruce grove’s authentic Italian restaurant. We buy all our produce and meats locally so we can bring you the taste of Italy with local fresh produce.
“EXCEPTIONAL private wedding reception”
“We treated our bridal party and immediate family to dinner at Porta Romana after our ceremony. We had the entire restaurant to ourselves and were able to rearrange/decorate how we like. They served us the most delicious authentic Italian five course meal including charcuterie, stuffed mushrooms, handmade pasta, dill salmon, prime rib, Italian desserts, and so much more!!”
“We will be going back soon”
“Go there. Enjoy the food, ambiance and great service nestled away in a corner of Spruce Grove. We will be going back soon. Not sure what took us so long to go the first time, other than skepticism that such a place could exist in Spruce Grove.”
“A hands free wedding planning”
“Our wedding at Porta Romana Spruce Grove was the most magical time we could ever ask for. Karren, the co-owner with her services allowed us to have a hands free wedding planning and she handled it efficiently, on time and very punctual with replying to us if we had a seating change or any design ideas. I would highly recommend to ask her for her services for your wedding.”
“A beautiful experience”
“This was a beautiful experience we are from Winnipeg and come out here every summer for family. This was the first time we tried eating here and right from the moment we walked in and the wonderful young lady who served us this amazing food it was something we will remember. Take the time to eat here you will be very happy”
Hours of Operation
TUES – FRI
11:30am – 1:30pm
5:00pm – 9:00pm
5:00pm – 9:00pm
4:00pm - 8:00pm
We are closed
Porta Romana is currently participating in the restrictions exemption program until further notice.
Thank you for your support and patience while we navigate the provincial Covid mandates.
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