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Creighton Hotel goes beyond the basics with specialty nights

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 8:53 p.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Executive Chef Joseph Parsons of Natrona Heights displays several main dishes, holding a crabcake dinner (L) and crablegs dinner, in the fore ground are a classic ruben (L) and fish sandwiches at the Creighton Hotel November 16, 2012. Bill Shirley | For the Valley News Dispatch

BACKGROUND

Cary Rigatti shepherded the Creighton Hotel during its centennial anniversary a few years ago.

Rigatti, who bought the restaurant in 2001, and involved his wife, Nicolle, and his sister, Terri Osinski, with the ownership and operation, intends to keep the it humming for another few decades.

Rigatti has embraced social media and other forms of active marketing. Using Facebook, text-message blasts and the restaurant's website, Rigatti keeps a loyal customer base up to date on daily entrée and soup specials — he boasted that his cellphone contains lists of liver-and-onion enthusiasts and patrons crazy for crab cakes.

“They'll text me back,” Rigatti says. “Then we'll reserve them, and when they walk in, we'll have these place mats turned upside down and marked, ‘6 p.m., party of four, three crab cakes and whatever else.”

Competition for customers has grown in the decade-plus since his family took over, Rigatti acknowledges. Because of its history, the Creighton Hotel is unlikely to fade from the Alle-Kiski Valley dining scene altogether. But the Rigattis aim to at least maintain their business' market share.

With that in mind, Rigatti has added to the varied menu, which includes seafood, Italian, pub grub, American comfort and Mexican.

“You have to keep getting better ... and trying different things,” Rigatti says. “I can't advertise in the paper, ‘Come to the Creighton Hotel. We have the same stuff we had for the last 20 years.' We've got to change it up.”

Many of those diverse dining options are available for delivery to businesses, says Rigatti, who plans to keep his catering operation small but steady.

The Creighton Hotel also takes pride in its playful advertising. The restaurant's current campaign, meant to draw attention to Pasta Mondays, features posters with Rigatti's daughter, Allison, covered in spaghetti as a 2-year-old.

Rigatti previously used a poster picture with Allison and an older daughter, Madison, sitting on a burro to hype the Mexican night.

ATMOSPHERE

A yellow exterior and pink walls in the dining room make the Creighton Hotel colorful. The dining room with the pink interior provides diners an escape from the smoky bar area, which has its own side entrance. A small hallway and several doors separate the bar (with a half-dozen tables) from the main eating area.

A party room is available that can hold up to 25 guests.

The table settings are simple: paper napkins and paper place mats with local advertising. The servers, taking a cue from ownership, are friendly.

“It doesn't take long to become a regular here, because you can feel that you're welcome,” Rigatti says.

MENU

Chef Joe Parsons handles a menu that covers a wide range.

Popular appetizers include hand-breaded and fried mushrooms, zucchini and cauliflower ($5.50 each).

Fans of fried cheese are advised to get the fried provolone ($5.75), which arrives as two CD-size wheels of gooey goodness with a spicy tomato sauce.

Or, for those in the mood for a spicier option, there are hot-pepper cheese balls ($5.50), which come in bite-size portions by the basket.

The anti-fry crowd might prefer the steamed mussels ($7.95), an appetizer that includes about two dozen of the namesake items with mushrooms, diced tomatoes, onion and garlic butter.

Rigatti views the Creighton Hotel's chicken wings — served in the two-part form — as a can't-miss option. They come seasoned in a half-dozen ($7.70) or dozen ($13.45). And, sauce options (add $0.30 for a half-dozen and $1 for a dozen) abound: buffalo, garlic butter, BBQ, honey hot, General Tso's.

The entree menu, Rigatti notes with enthusiasm, includes enough chicken, steak, seafood and sandwich dishes to make a customer take a minute just to read everything. And that's only the daily dining menu — specials add more options to the mix.

Pasta Mondays present six dishes (spaghetti with meatballs, fettuccine alfredo, gnocchi, manicotti, cheese ravioli, meat ravioli) for $6 apiece.

Seafood Tuesdays include crab legs ($10.95 per pound), baked stuffed shrimp ($2.50 each, with a minimum of four) and a deluxe platter ($16.95), among other options.

Through November, Tuesday also often features liver and onions or stuffed cabbage. Wednesday alternates between ribs and roast beef.

Fridays center on seafood items. Saturday alternates between prime rib and surf & turf.

And, Sundays involve stuffed chicken or pork chops. Almost all of the specials are $9.95.

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext.1321, or wwest@tribweb.com.

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