CATSKILL, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Heather Minew has been with Piccolo Dal Torrente almost since the beginning. She eventually became the owner alongside the beloved founder and chef Rodrigo Silva.

Sadly, Silva passed away from a heart attack in April 2023 at only 54 years old. It was always his dream to open a restaurant and he finally did in 2021 by opening the small Italian restaurant in Catskill.

After losing Silva and for various other reasons, Minew decided to step down as owner as of August 1. She spoke with NEWS10 and recounted her experience with Silva and Piccolo Dal Torrente so far.

Silva was born in Mexico and lived in Wappingers Falls his whole life. After he opened Piccolo, he commuted an hour and half both ways every day to work 12 to 16 hours at the restaurant, said Minew.

Silva opened Piccolo on Mother’s Day in 2021. Minew said he only had one customer that day. The restaurant was located on Water Street in Catskill and it only sat 19 people.

At the time, Minew was working for the county when she stopped at Piccolo to eat. Silva was the only employee. He waited on them and made the food.

“He couldn’t find anyone to work for him,” said Minew. “I was blown away by his kindness, work ethic, and food. I had to help this guy.”

Minew offered to wait tables for him for no pay, just tips. Silva never advertised his restaurant but word spread and he soon was fully booked every night. Soon, Minew fell in love with his family and customers, and quit her county job to work for Silva full-time.

“It gave me a different sense of fulfillment, enjoyment, and worth,” said Minew.

In October 2022, Piccolo could no longer operate in its location on Water Street and Silva could not own the restaurant. That’s when they found a 99-seat restaurant in Catskill and Minew became the owner.

Piccolo Dal Torrente opened on December 1, 2022, at 601 Main Street. Minew said the restaurant would sell out every night and they’ve had zero staff turnover since December because the staff wanted to work for him.

People travel from all over to eat at Piccolo, said Minew. Many people would bring gifts to the restaurant. “It’s something about this place where people come and they feel like family,” said Minew. “It’s not the same without him.”

The day Silva passed, Minew said the restaurant phone has 246 messages of people offering their condolences. People who come into the restaurant every so often still ask for him, she said.

“Everyone loved Chef. He just touched so many people’s lives with what he created,” said Minew. “He had an amazing heart.”

Although Minew is no longer the owner, she’s staying on as a server at the restaurant. The new owners are Dara and Jeremy Ellenbogen from Saugerties, who own several commercial properties in the area. They were originally guests at Piccolo when they visited Catskill and ate at the restaurant 11 days in a row because the food was so good, said Minew.

The new owners will be carrying on Silva’s recipes, but will be changing the aesthetics of the restaurant, said Minew. All the staff is staying on as well.

You can view the Piccolo menu on the restaurant’s Facebook page. The restaurant is currently open Wednesday through Sunday from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., but the new owners may be extending the hours, said Minew. If you want to eat at the restaurant, Minew highly recommends you make a reservation by calling (518) 719-3430.