Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Owner of Longtime Family Restaurant Honored

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Owner of Longtime Family Restaurant Honored

Article excerpt

For 76 years, Rizzi DeFabo's family has been running an Italian restaurant in Crabtree that his great-grandparents founded after emigrating from Italy.

A lot has changed in the restaurant industry in nearly eight decades, but Rizzo's Malabar Inn has survived world-changing events, including World War II and a major recession.

"It had to progress with the times," Mr. DeFabo, 39, said of his family's work at the Westmoreland County restaurant.

That progress and Mr. DeFabo's promotion of Italian traditions were honored last month, when he received the Columbus 500 Man of the Year award.

Mr. DeFabo, of Greensburg, helped to establish the Order of Sons of Italy in America in Crabtree, and he received the Italian American Heritage Award from the Heinz History Center in 2002, according to the Columbus 500 website. He also volunteers at local schools by giving cooking and baking demonstrations.

Columbus 500, a Westmoreland County nonprofit, gives the award annually to Italian-Americans from the region who have been successful in their field or who have promoted Italian heritage in the community. The organization also gives $8,000 college scholarships to students of Italian descent.

Mr. DeFabo still has family in Italy, and he travels there frequently to look for new food ideas and recipes.

"I try to learn as much as I can while I'm there," he said, noting that a lot of the Italian traditions are carried on in the family's restaurant.

Rizzo's success is evidenced by the fact that it's still in business: The restaurant is on a two-lane highway in a rural area of Crabtree, which means the people who come to Rizzo's are coming for the food, not because it's convenient to get there.

"They're not coming to Crabtree to go to the mall or the movies or shopping at a Target next door," Mr. DeFabo said. "You have to travel to go to Rizzo's."

Mr. DeFabo recently released a cookbook, "Cooking with Rizzi," which chronicles the restaurant's history and dozens of family recipes that have been served at the restaurant over the years.

Mr. DeFabo said his parents encouraged him and his brother Jerry to attend college, but they both took an interest in the restaurant business from a young age. …

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