New Brunswick restaurateur keeps faith amid COVID-19 – New Brunswick


A New Brunswick restaurateur who overcame a history of drug addiction doesn’t want the pandemic to spoil his dreams.

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Tucked away along Main Street in the quiet village of Hillsborough, New Brunswick is the Cucina de Rocco restaurant.

Rocco Agostini, who moved to New Brunswick in 2008, opened the village restaurant in the fall of 2018. He said he almost stopped in his tracks as he walked past the property for sale on a motorcycle excursion in the small village.

“I had a shiver in my body as soon as I saw it and I said, ‘Here it is,’ said Agostini, who grew up in Toronto, the son of parents who immigrated to Canada from from Italy in the 1950s.

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“It was always about the Italian base and here we are.”

Having worked for restaurants in Toronto for years, he said he finally fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning his own restaurant. It opened the doors in the fall of 2018 and a little over a year later, the unexpected happened: the pandemic struck.

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“The last year has been difficult for everyone. Of course you know everyone has their ups and downs for sure, ”said his wife Emily Agostini, who said her husband knows everything to survive the lows.

“He persevered and he still preserves.”

Rocco said while working as a cook in Toronto his life took a turn for the worse.

“Drug addiction and alcoholism in the kitchen and stuff like that and I got sucked into it and it was just to the point that my drug addiction was consuming,” he says.

He said he found sobriety through a program called Teen Challenge, where he had met his now wife for 12 years. He’s been sober now for almost 14 years and has said he doesn’t want to let the pandemic ruin his dream.

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Even amid COVID-19 business closures and border closures and the lack of tourist traffic outside his restaurant over the past year, he continues.

“Without the people supporting the locals and dedication this year would have been very different for our family,” said Emily, who said the couple were extremely grateful for the support from surrounding communities.

Being unable to see his parents still in Toronto has been difficult, said Rocco, who said his heart goes out to his friends and family in Toronto.

“I hope when things improve they can come visit me and see what I have been doing here,” he said.

He said his restaurant had to make some changes to adjust to the pandemic. He said people now need reservations to dine at the six-table restaurant specializing in authentic Italian cuisine. Rocco says he is grateful to live in a province with such supportive people.

“It won’t stop me. If I can beat drug addiction with the help of the holy spirits, it is a piece of cake.

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