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Harrison City pizza shop name sparks Aiello brothers' 'family feud'

| Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 9:17 p.m.
Chris Foreman / Penn-Trafford Star Pete Aiello is completing preparations to open Aiello's Pizzeria in Harrison City. Though Aiello formerly worked for his father's business, now run by his brother, Mike, his new restaurant isn't affiliated with Aiello's Pizza in Squirrel Hill.

Pete Aiello's late father made his family's name famous among Pittsburgh pizza buffs. So when Aiello left the family business last summer to start his own restaurant in Harrison City, he wanted to honor the skills his father, an Italian immigrant, honed at his Squirrel Hill shop.

But Aiello's decision to use the family name for Aiello's Pizzeria is contributing to a crusty feud with his brother, Mike, who now runs Aiello's Pizza, which opened in 1978.

Though the brothers share a bloodline with the popular family patriarch who died last year, both say there is no link between the similarly named restaurants that are separated by 20 miles.

And Pete Aiello, 38, makes no apologies for his soon-to-open Walnut Street restaurant's name and contends that a last name can be a “big benefit” for someone in the second or third generation of a craft. His culinary experience includes 25 years with his father's business.

“That's my last name, and I have a good reputation. So that's what I wanted it to be,” said Pete Aiello, who owned a Pizza Roma franchise on Pittsburgh's North Side from 2002 to 2005.

His brother is trying to keep his distance. Mike Aiello acknowledged it's a “family feud” but referred questions about the rift to his sibling.

“I don't want to jump in anyone's pool,” Mike Aiello said last week.

The response was a little more blunt when a customer asked about the opening of the “Penn Township location” on the Facebook page for the Squirrel Hill restaurant.

Aiello's Pizza posted a statement saying the new restaurant was “using our name to help establish their business.” The family connection isn't mentioned.

If there were a problem with his restaurant's name, Pete Aiello said, the Pennsylvania Department of State wouldn't have let him register “Aiello's Pizzeria LLC” last August. His father, Giuseppe “Joe” Aiello, registered “Aiello's Pizza” in the 1970s.

Every aspect of a business — especially the name — is a marketing opportunity, said Michael Shepherd, an Ohio-based restaurant owner and pizzeria consultant.

The right name sparks a customer to ask questions to learn more about a business, Shepherd said. And name recognition, such as that for an existing brand, can be worth a lot, he said.

“Sometimes, if the place has been around for 50 years, that itself can be in the marketing,” Shepherd said.

Pete Aiello, who said he learned everything he knows from his father, said he isn't worried about any confusion about his new restaurant.

He said he has his “own little twist” on the pizza he'll sell, and everything — from the mozzarella to the pastries — will be handmade.

Will the food taste similar to Aiello's Pizza?

“I'm going to let the customers judge that,” he said.

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-871-2363 or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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