Pettinato’s Honors Ancestors’ Traditions In Carbondale
For close to 100 years, Pettinato’s Restaurant has stood the test of time in Carbondale under the careful watch and hard work of its founding family.
Opened in 1922 by a couple who emigrated from Rome and Calabria, Italy, Pettinato’s initial success came thanks to the booming blue-collar industries in town. Though it originally only served beer and wine, spaghetti and meatballs were added to the menu to make it a lunch destination for the railroad workers and employees of former steel and manufacturing plants nearby.
Business was so good back then — even through Prohibition — that Pettinato’s remained open 24 hours a day until 1940. By 1958, the second generation of family members — two sons — took over, though one moved on to another career while the other stayed on until 1973. Their sister and her husband took over and remained in charge all the way up until the latter’s death in 2014, when their son, Pierre Mancuso, a local clothier, decided to take up the mantle and get into the family business of food.
Over the last five years, Mancuso has brought in several more relatives, including his wife of 17 years, Jennifer; his 85-year-old aunt, Marie; his mother-in-law, Janice Beadle; big brother Jimmy and his wife, Doreen; his sister Jacinta and her husband, Ted; and his own children, Chloe and Nico, to help him keep the restaurant running smoothly.
A Carbondale native, Mancuso literally grew up in the business, where he would do homework at the dining room tables and watch both of his parents work in the kitchen, where they each had their own talents.
“My dad was a master of tenderizing veal, making it paper-thin,” Mancuso said. “Thank God I paid attention.”
His mom, meanwhile, was the “heart of the business,” famous for her attention to details and refusal to cut corners. Though his parents dreamed of having their son take over the business, Mancuso followed his heart and his “passion for fashion” to open his namesake clothing store, Pierre’s, in downtown Scranton, which he owned for 37 years. After his dad died, Mancuso struggled to keep up with both businesses full-time, so he shuttered Pierre’s, doing pop-up shops as fundraisers instead, and devoted himself fully to the restaurant. In some ways, it allowed him to follow more closely in his father’s footsteps, as his dad’s work at Pettinato’s also was a second career following a stint as a mechanical engineer.
“Losing (my parents) is why I’m in this position,” Mancuso said. “And I didn’t even need to learn, because you always helped. Food was so important.”
Now the keeper of the family legacy, Mancuso strives to honor all the traditions his predecessors established while also keeping up with food trends.
“If there’s anything we really value here, it is that it has always been the same family recipes going back to my grandparents,” he said. “There’s so much history here. The restaurant has been the meeting place forever. It’s like coming home here. It’s an extension of my house.”
So while guests can dine on meatballs prepared the same way they have been going back generations — as well as standards such as veal and chicken versions of Francaise, Parmesan and Piccata — they also can test out newer items including flatbreads, such as the top-selling Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomato.
The homemade Chicken Soup has been a longtime standard, Mancuso noted, and he recently added French Onion Soup. The Shrimp Scampi and homemade Hot Sausage also are popular, while he called the gourmet salad that accompanies most dinners “fabulous.”
“People say our eggplant is unbelievable, even those who don’t think they like eggplant,” Mancuso added. “I peel all the black to get rid of that bitterness and all the drainage, pat it dry, and add layer upon layer of cheese — usually about five layers — so that it’s like a tower. It’s a great vegetarian choice.”
With seating for about 70, Pettinato’s fills up fast, so reservations and calls ahead are strongly suggested. But Mancuso said that once seated, guests can stay as long as they like to truly enjoy the atmosphere and experience.
“We never rush anybody. We’re not trying to turn a table,” he explained. “That’s your table for the night.”
Mancuso has seen more of his friends and acquaintances come in since he took ownership, but he said the longest-standing customers truly keep Pettinato’s strong.
“The clientele is generations of family, people in their 60s and 70s who have been coming in since they were little,” he said. “So many have been dedicated, faithful, loyal and so good to us. That means so much. You don’t see too much of that these days.
“There’s a lot of responsibility involved, both to keep customers happy and keep the family legacy alive.”
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Address: 78 Dundaff St., Carbondale
Owner: Pierre Mancuso
Hours: Wednesdays through Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m.
Online: Visit the Facebook page.