Gino, Ida, and Rudy

Durante questo mese ho avuto il piacere di visitare trè ristoranti proprio all'italiana nella zona di Pittsburgh. Ogn'uno di questi opera diversamente, ha un menu diverso dall'altro e una clientela diversa, ma i proprietari di questi ristoranti sono molto simili. Tutti e trè sono Italiani, due nati in Italia ed uno nato in America ma figlio di Italiani. Tutti e trè hanno delle personalità che attira la clientela, lavorano sodo e dedicano tante ore per operare con successo i loro ristoranti. Tutti e trè sono aperti piu di venticinque anni ed tutti hanno una relazione speciale con i loro clienti. Questi sono i ristoranti di Gino Iannamorelli, Ida Peluso e Rudy Bolea Jr. I loro risoranti servono tutti delle pietanze squisite, hanno una atmosfera molto amichevole e rilassante e sono degli ambieti molto puliti e ordinati. Vi raccomandiamo di andarli a vedere anche voi se prossimamente sarete vicino a Pittsburgh.

This month, I had the pleasure on visiting three local eateries in the Pittsburgh area. Each of the three is different in operation, clientele, and menu but each of the owners has similarities that they share. All three of the owners are Italian, two were born in Italy and the third is a second generation Italian-American. All three have personalities that endear them to their customers and all three put in the extra hours and hard work that it takes to operate a successful restaurant in today's business climate. All three of the restaurants have been in business in excess of twenty-five years and the owners have a special relationship with their local parish and are well known for their generosity to their communities. Let me tell you a little about Gino Iannamorelli, Ida Peluso and Rudy Bolea Jr.'s special places.

Gino Iannamorelli is known in the Coraopolis, Neville Island and the surrounding area by the one name "Gino"long before it became popular to be known by only one name like "Cher" or "Pele". Ask almost anyone in the area if they know "Gino" and most will answer yes and mention that they have either eaten at his restaurant or at a function that he has catered.

Gino came to the United States in 1947 at the age of 17 and lived with an uncle in Coraopolis, Pa. Although he was born in Italy, his father was an American citizen and since he was under the age of 18, Gino was allowed to emigrate to this country. After graduation from high school he was employed at the Spring Works in Coraopolis. Gino also served in the U.S. Army for two years in Korea.

In 1954 Gino married Violet Colarossi and at the encouragement of her brother, Leo, he purchased a luncheonette on Neville Island not far from their home in Coraopolis. At that time, Neville Island was composed of residences on one end of the island and light to heavy industry including ship building, steel fabrication, chemical and coke works on the rest of the island. Because of his homemade food, outgoing personality and generous portions, Gino's Restaurant and Catering became a natural place for the many industrial and office workers of the area to have a hearty breakfast and lunch. During the day, the tables, booths and the U-shaped lunch counter were filled with hungry men and women enjoying soups, pasta and chicken dinners and hearty sandwiches all made in the small but efficient working kitchen. No one who stopped at Gino's ever left hungry!

As the years passed, and much of the heavy industry left the area, Gino began to do more and more catering. He specialized in business lunches at area offices, parties of all sizes, weddings, church gatherings and dinners, and just about any social function. His three children, all excellent students and all class valedictorians, helped at the business as well. Today Gino and Vi's children are professionals, one son is a physician, their daughter is an attorney and their second son is a vice president in the computer division of an area bank.

Early this year, Gino's restaurant was chosen as a setting for the upcoming movie, "One for the Money" starring Katherine Heigl. The interior of the restaurant fit the profile of the script and everyone was very excited about the filming. There are photos from the shoot and autographed menus hanging on the wall for all to see.

If you find yourself on Neville Island some morning or early afternoon and would like a cup of coffee or a home cooked lunch, just ask anyone where Gino's Restaurant is. You will find him there working on a menu for an upcoming event or talking to the regulars who still come in. You will recognize him by the white or checkered chef's jacket that he wears along with the pocket full of pens, the twinkle in his eye and his smile. Gino will tell you what the specials of the day are and yell out your order to Arlene, Maria or Amelia who will probably yell something back at him in Italian as they prepare your plate. That is how it is when you have worked with someone for over thirty years!

Ida Peluso has only taken six days off since she opened her restaurant, Ida's Place in Arnold, Pennsylvania in 1980! How many people do you know who have shown such dedication to a business?

When you enter Ida's Place, and take a seat at one of the eight tables, you immediately feel like you have been seated in your own kitchen or dining room. Ida's Place is a small, cozy restaurant with an open kitchen that you can look into as your lunch or dinner is prepared. Immaculate in every way, you know that this is going to be worth the drive. The daily luncheon and dinner specials (and, they are all special) are listed on a whiteboard next to the kitchen. All of the Ravioli, Lasagna, and Gnocchi, are hand made and the serving portions are very generous. Stuffed eggplant, and peppers along with greens and beans, and home made soups round out an average day's bounty.

Ida came to the United States in 1966 from her home in Amantea, on the Calabrian coast, south of Cosenza. She settled in Arnold, near New Kensington, on the banks of the Allegheny River, fitting well into the largely Italian-American community.

Around 1978, Ida began to make and sell sausage. A customer suggested that she should also sell sandwiches and so, Ida took his advice and opened a sandwich shop with one table. Later, customers also suggested that she make pasta and soon Ida's Place was born.

This low-key, high-energy generous woman has fed walk-ins when in need, sent food to the homes of sick customers and sent her food parcels to a number of priests at Mt. St. Peter Church in New Kensington. Ida is widely known as a valued member of her community because she truly cares about that community. Ida has also raised two daughters, one is an attorney and the other holds a high management position with a Pittsburgh area pharmaceutical company. Knowing her, you must believe that hard work truly does pay off.

If you travel to Arnold, Pa. visit Ida's Place, stop in and savor the aromas flowing from her kitchen, bring a bottle of your favorite wine, and check out the coffee pot collection on display. Walk up and look over the counter into her spotless kitchen with the pastel serving plates neatly stacked in their place. Ask to see the original two pots that she still uses to cook sauce and pasta. Ida will probably sit down at the next table and in her feisty manner tell you about her years serving the wonderful people who have visited her restaurant. After you have eaten, she will send over a good cup of coffee and her own freshly made biscotti to complete your meal. You will truly feel that you have eaten in the dining room of a friend!

Rudy Bolea, Jr., a former teacher and cabinet maker, fulfilled a long held dream and opened his home-style restaurant, Junior's in November, 1984 on Fifth Avenue in Coraopolis, Pa. Crowds of locals from Coraopolis, Moon, and the Sewickly area welcomed the eatery. The restaurant is known for its large portions, modest prices and friendly service. Families feel comfortable eating here and mingle easily with business professionals while waiting for tables in the building's lobby.

The restaurant seats about 50 people and has a party room in the back that can accommodate crowds of up to 100 people, perfect for area bridal showers, business gatherings and luncheons. Initially, the restaurant was open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday and after a year or so, breakfast was added.

The restaurant was truly a family affair with Rudy's grandmother sitting in the window making gnocchi, Mom helping in the kitchen, Rudy Sr. carving roast beef or ham (always wearing a white shirt and tie) and Rudy's sisters waiting on tables. One of Rudy's uncles even ran the register from a wheelchair! It was not unusual to see friends bussing a table or carrying dirty dishes into the kitchen when times were busy. I should say that Junior's is not just a family affair, but a family and friend's affair.

The menu is one of the most extensive that you will see in a local restaurant; Snacks and appetizers (12), side dishes (14), various burgers (10), cold sandwiches and wraps (9), basic pastas (7), various salads (7), hot and specialty sandwiches (26), plus soup, chile and specials of the day. If you cannot find something that you like….. don't worry because you will !

All of this food comes out of an immaculate compact kitchen area that is laid out for maximum efficiency. There is a place for every necessary item required and a lot more. A grill, roaster, deep fryer, griddle, electric kettles for sauce and chile, roasting ovens, toasters, mixers, slicers, convection ovens and coolers all contribute to the completion of the home style meals served hot and delicious. If you have to wait for a bit on a Friday evening for one of the famous fish sandwiches or dinners, it will be time well spent.

In addition to running the restaurant Monday through Friday for breakfast and lunch, Rudy is always ready to assist at St. Joseph Church in Coraopolis when a dinner, or special event such as the annual Parish festival occurs. There have been occasions where, because of a problem at the Church, a last minute re-location of a program or luncheon had to be made. Rudy always does his best to accommodate.

Regulars at the restaurant generally spend a few minutes circulating around the tables greeting friends or relatives. It is just that kind of place! The atmosphere is a little on the loud side with friends talking and laughing at group tables. Nate, a friendly Coraopolis Boro fireman takes phone orders, records your name and number in your party, and calls out to you when your table is ready. Beer, wine and some liquor are available but Junior's makes and sells iced tea by the gallon! It is a great place to get real food along with a relaxed friendly atmosphere. If he knows you, Rudy will sit down at the table with you and talk about local Coraopolis happenings. And, while you talk, he may even sample one of your french fries! Again, it is that kind of a place.