Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Losing Minutello's Feels like Departure of Favored Relative

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Losing Minutello's Feels like Departure of Favored Relative

Article excerpt

In these days of fast casual, there's still a place for the 5,000- square-foot, full-service restaurant, but after dinner next Sunday, 226 Shady Ave. won't be one of them.

Lou Minutello is ending the long chapter that began in 1960, when his father Lou and uncle Al opened Minutello's Meadow Grill in Larimer. The brothers moved to Shadyside a few years later and prospered enough to open two more restaurants, in Mt. Lebanon and Ross, and a fast-food place in Murrysville. The younger Lou was washing dishes and busing tables by age 12.

Over the years, the suburban restaurants closed while the flagship plugged along with regulars who took their grown children and grandchildren there. For decades, the Italian restaurant -- where the most expensive entree is still under $20 -- swirled with weddings, homecomings and bar mitzvah parties.

It was a long run "and it could have continued to pay the bills," Mr. Minutello said. "But I wanted something more."

At 54, an age when many people have stopped thinking about new chapters, he has one lined up.

Working with several investors, he will be opening a new prototype Italian Oven in the Orchard Park Plaza in Richland, possibly as early as March 15.

The Italian Oven started in the Pittsburgh area and has 120 locations nationwide. In recent years, its executives have been taking the chain in the direction of fast casual.

"This is where the industry is going," Mr. Minutello said, citing Chipotle and Panera as examples of restaurants that do not need as many employees as traditional, white napkin-on-the lap dining. "We will have fast, fresh artisanal pizza, salad and pasta for less than $10.

For "a long time, I didn't want to leave because my name's on the door," he said. "I've been afraid to leave; I've had anxiety attacks. But I'm looking forward to what I think has tremendous potential."

He said he expects to continue Minutello's catering business from the new restaurant.

You can't spend 30 years serving people well without having a long line of sad regulars when you decide to stop doing it. Mr. Minutello said he expects to go through a lot of tissues by the end of the week. He has already said a lot of goodbyes to regulars such as Greg Dufour, a North Sider. …

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