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New Kensington's Zamboni Sports Bar & Grill to offer restaurant fare

| Sunday, Aug. 31, 2014, 9:04 p.m.
Zamboni Sports Bar and Grill general manager Rob Kemp (left)  of Natrona Heights, and owner Josh Carson of Mount Vernon, take a moment to pose for a portrait behind the new New Kensington bar on Thursday August 28, 2014, as they prepare for the grand opening on September 5, 2014.
DAN SPEICHER | For TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Zamboni Sports Bar and Grill general manager Rob Kemp (left) of Natrona Heights, and owner Josh Carson of Mount Vernon, take a moment to pose for a portrait behind the new New Kensington bar on Thursday August 28, 2014, as they prepare for the grand opening on September 5, 2014.
Zamboni Sports Bar and Grill general manager Rob Kemp (left)  of Natrona Heights, and owner Josh Carson of Mount Vernon, take a moment to pose for a portrait behind the new New Kensington bar on Thursday August 28, 2014, as they prepare for the grand opening on September 5, 2014.
DAN SPEICHER | For TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Zamboni Sports Bar and Grill general manager Rob Kemp (left) of Natrona Heights, and owner Josh Carson of Mount Vernon, take a moment to pose for a portrait behind the new New Kensington bar on Thursday August 28, 2014, as they prepare for the grand opening on September 5, 2014.

Along with three other men, Rob Kemp of Natrona Heights hoisted a more than 400-pound stainless-steel cooking hood off a truck last week at the Zamboni Sports Bar & Grill in New Kensington.

The new bar-restaurant, set to open Sept. 12, lies across the parking lot from Pittsburgh Ice Arena along Craigdell Road.

Hockey parents “are over there in the parking lot, tailgating,” says Kemp, Zamboni's general manager. “Now, they can come here.”

Kemp plans to cater not only to hockey players and their families, but also to patrons from around the region.

During the past four months, contractors have renovated the space formerly occupied by The Power Play and The Falcon's Nest. Kemp insisted on keeping the original knotty-pine walls of the building, which is more than 20 years old. But the space has been lightened with earth-tone ceramic tile.

Last week, workers and Kemp were putting the finishing touches on the sports bar and grill, named for the machine that shaves the surfaces of ice rinks and lays down a fresh layer of water.

But Zamboni Sports Bar & Grill nods to many sports in the region, with bar stools emblazoned with the logos of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Pirates and Steelers, and another Steelers logo on the green grass-looking carpet in the bar.

Three large-screen televisions will broadcast the latest games to bar patrons; another four televisions are mounted together on the dining-room ceiling, forming a kind of a restaurant-size Jumbotron. A small stage in a corner of the dining room will be a platform for local bands that will play Saturday nights; DJs will provide music Friday nights.

Kemp says he and the staff aim to make the restaurant “a family-oriented sports bar” offering American casual foods and an array of craft beers and other beverages. A children's menu with housemade — not frozen — chicken nuggets and fingers will be available, Kemp says.

The restaurant also will offer appetizers, subs, pizzas, calzones, salads and burgers — but a step up.

“We'll have designer pizzas. All the dough will be made here, the sauce will be made here, and we'll use top-of-the-line Grande pizza cheese,” Kemp says. Other bread products will come from Mancini Bakery.

Kemp's “go-to kitchen” person, Jennifer Woodings, 41, of Washington Township, Westmoreland County, says she wants to “bring the old, old way of doing things into this modern restaurant,” including creating from-scratch dishes using fresh and local ingredients.

“My grandmother was from Italy; I have her pesto recipe in my head,” Woodings says.

Among the various “designer pizzas” planned: the Chicken Pesto ($17.99 to $23.99, depending on size) will include roasted chicken breast, Roma tomatoes and mushrooms on fresh pesto; the Head Coach ($19.99 to $25.99) will include tomato sauce, mozzarella and provolone cheeses, pepperoni, Italian sausage, Genoa salami, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, green bell peppers, black olives, tomato slices and red onion.

Vegetarian pizzas also will be available, including the Tesoro ($18.99 to $24.99) with artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes, black olives, roasted peppers, broccoli and feta.

Salads include a Tuna Salad ($8.99) with albacore tuna steak — not canned — along with tomato and red onions; and the Smoke House Steak Salad ($9.99), with grilled steak, tomato, feta cheese, black beans and jalapenos.

The burgers ($7.99 to $8.49) will use Angus beef.

Patrons who want plate dinners will have a few options: homemade crab cakes ($12.95); chicken alfredo ($10.75) and spaghetti ($9.95), with meatballs or hot sausage.

Kemp, 40, has had about 25 years of restaurant experience, beginning at age 15 at a local Subway his mother managed. Since then, he's worked at a variety of restaurants, including pizza shops and country-club dining rooms.

The Pittsburgh Ice Arena has a snack bar, but that shouldn't be a conflict.

“We're going to be more snack-bar food, and they're going to have high-quality restaurant food,” says Steve Tuholski, 35, of Erie, general manager of the arena. “A lot of rinks have this kind of (restaurant) facility in them. To have them so close is a huge asset to us, but (the proximity) is an asset to them, as well.”

The restaurant will be “good for the rink and good for the hockey atmosphere,” Tuholski says.

“It's an exciting menu; I cannot wait to get started,” Woodings says.

Zamboni Sports Bar & Grill, 715 Craigdell Road, New Kensington, will be open from 11 a.m. to midnight Mondays through Saturdays, noon to midnight Sundays (dining room closes at 9 p.m., with bar food available until closing). Details: 724-212-7468 or zambonigrillpa .com.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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