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Bistro on 130 opened recently, but roots were planted in owner’s family home years ago

August 1, 2018

Bistro on 130 opened recently, but roots were planted in owner’s family home years ago

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Pete Mascia Jr. has more than his father’s name. A love of cooking was passed as easily and smoothly as a chef can glide through a kitchen, stirring sauce and making pizzas and sharing meals.

In fact, in the Mascia household, that’s what food was all about: Sharing.

Pete Jr., along with a small group of investors, owns Bistro on 130, an Italian restaurant at the northwest corner of W. 130th Street and W. Sprague Road in Middleburg Heights. It opened in December in the space formerly occupied by #1 Pho. The location sits on the convergence of North Royalton, Strongsville, Parma Heights and Middleburg Heights. The space covers 2,500 square feet and seats about 60 in the dining room with about 25 in the bar area. The red lettering atop the long green roof doesn’t scream “Italian restaurant,” but that’s what it definitely is.

And that’s the food Pete Jr. grew up with.

To hear Pete, his sister Maria and brother Russell talk about the roots of the restaurant is to hear stories that revolve about their upbringing, about their mother, Caterina, and late father. Mom was from the Gordon Square neighborhood, dad from Little Italy.

“My whole family is involved with cooking,” Pete said. “Our house was the place to go to when you were growing up. There was always one house that everyone gravitated to. My father would make 20 sheet pizzas. By the end of the week my friends would stop over and my sisters’ friends would stop over. Dad would be making meatballs Saturday afternoon, rolling pizzas, cutting them, giving them out.

“One of my best friends was the newspaper boy,” Pete said. “Kid could never collect on Sundays. He would sit down. ‘Dave, come in, have a bowl of spaghetti.’ ... I’d come home from work, my dad and four of my friends were watching football, eating Sunday meal. Always around food, always cooking.

The kitchen in the Mascia home became a rite of passage. When you were old enough, you shadowed and learned. It was always someone’s turn to learn about sauce, cooking, baking – some kind of meal, they said.

“When I was growing up it was a thing, my sister learning how to make the sauce with my mom,” Maria said. “I wasn’t allowed to yet; I was too young. It was a thing.”

Russell also remembers food in the family kitchen fondly.

“You start the sauce on Saturday and the music’s going and it’s a big process,” he said. (In addition to food, their father loved music, something Russell inherited; he is part of the Dom and Russ rat-pack genre entertainment group.)

Pete wrestled and played baseball at Midpark High School. With wrestlers, pre-match weight watch was a constant. After matches, though, it was time to eat. And they knew where to go.

“One by one the wrestlers would come to the back door. ‘Hi, you got some pizza? After a while later the 175-pounder would stop by. We’d hand him four or five pieces, and he’d leave. I’d think ‘This is crazy,’ Pete said.

But it wasn’t. It was about being familial even to those who weren’t blood-related. Their dad also coordinated spaghetti-dinner fundraisers for school.

You’d think Pete Sr. would have owned a restaurant. He worked as a plasterer, coating walls all over downtown, from Playhouse Square theaters to Tower City renovation and beyond. In fact, on his last day of work, the family met him with his golf clothes. He put his hawk, trowel, tools and work clothes in an opening in the wall, changed clothes, and plastered over it. Pete Mascia put his own finishing touches on his work life.

That love of cooking, though, stayed with him. And it was passed to Pete Jr., who started with Stouffer’s. He cooked at Roxy Bar and Grill in Cleveland, had a couple of stints at Johnny’s on Fulton, worked at Bucci’s J Bella. The restaurant life got into his blood.

Over the years, a friend would let Pete know about places for sale. Timing never worked out. Until last year.

“He called me up,” Pete said. ” ‘I got a nice little spot for you. Why don’t you check it out?’

I said ’You know what? I want to put all my effort into this. I had a shot.”

His shot, his dream and his family’s blessings all came together. (There’s five siblings in all, along with Ron and Rachel.)

When the deal was finalized, Pete said, “I felt like I was standing on a mountain screaming when this place was offered to me.”

Said his brother Russell: “He took what they taught him and brought it to another level, another dimension.”

The meatballs are their parents’ recipe. Pete stays true to scratch preparation as much as possible.

“What’s weird is people got away from the homemade (preparation) for a while, then you go back to the homemade and it’s what your mom and dad did,” Pete said.

“I think people don’t realize what true homemade is,” Russell added. “So many restaurants say ‘This is homemade’ and they get meatballs out of a bag.”

It means buying quality cheese, something that is evident in the eggplant lasagna, one of the specialties at Bistro on 130. It means crafting a special soup weekly. It means making veal Marsala with good wine, a dish that brings a smile to Maria. It means sautéing pizza toppings first in a bit of olive oil for that added flavor, rather than just dumping them on top of the dough.

And it means offering Chicken Alouette, a dish Pete Jr. has been making since he was a teen.

“I made it for my friends,” he said. “I was 18, 19 - we had our own apartment.” Each week he would make it, attendance grew at the dinner table. And when he told them about opening Bistro on 130, that was the first thing they recalled.

″ ‘So happy for you Pete - is Chicken Alouette going to be on the menu?’ ” he heard. “So I put it on the menu.”

The funny thing is, he says he hasn’t “even done half the stuff” his father made in the family kitchen, Pete said.

“A little dream for him was to have a restaurant,” Russell said. “Pete just kind of not only has his name but is living his dream.”

Added Pete: “I’m sure he’s looking down on us.”

About Bistro on 130

The restaurant is at 7778 W. 130th St., Middleburg Heights, 440-747-7511. Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. Happy hour: 3-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. Closed Sunday-Monday (though the restaurant will hold private parties). Parking is out front in the strip mall.

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