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Richland restaurateur takes business in fast, casual direction

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

One long-standing restaurant door has closed, but a new door is opening for restaurateur Lou Minutello.

In February, he closed Minutello's Restaurant & Lounge in Shadyside, a restaurant he says his father and uncle started as Minutello's Meadow Grill in 1957 in East Liberty.

Now Minutello is going in a new direction — fast and casual — with this month's opening of Italian Oven in Richland.

“I'm excited about the future and I'm looking forward to it. It's what I always wanted to do,” he said.

The new restaurant will offer pizza, pasta, salads and Italian flat-bread sandwiches. The food will be priced at about $7.50 and served in less than 10 minutes, he said.

Minutello and a group of investors, known as Italian Oven Café Holdings LLC will open the restaurant soon in Orchard Park Plaza on Route 8.

“This will be our first location of this prototype,” he said.

A fast-casual restaurant does not provide full-table service but offers a higher-level dining experience than fast-food restaurants, according to Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based restaurant research firm.

The new Italian Oven, however, will provide some full-service dining amenities, such as silverware and table service, Minutello said.

He expects the restaurant to compete with other fast-casual restaurants such as Chipotle and full-service restaurants such as Bravo.

Italian Oven Inc. once operated more than 100 Italian Oven restaurants in 16 states. The first opened in Somerset in 1989.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1996, but there still are some independently owned Italian Oven locations, including one in Connellsville.

The Minutello family restaurant moved to Shadyside in the 1960s. The company expanded to include locations in Mt. Lebanon and Ross and a fast-food restaurant in Murrysville.

Minutello and his wife bought the last remaining location, the Shadyside restaurant, in 2000, he said.

He decided a few years ago that he wanted to go in a new direction.

He and his partners “wanted to do something similar, and so we put our resources together and started working together maybe eight years ago,” Minutello said.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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