ShareThis Page

Oakland eatery Fuel & Fuddle to reopen under new owners

| Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Former Fuel & Fuddle manager Brandon Smith and a business partner have purchased Fuel & Fuddle, which closed because of a minor fire in April.
Former Fuel & Fuddle manager Brandon Smith and a business partner have purchased Fuel & Fuddle, which closed because of a minor fire in April.
Former Fuel & Fuddle manager Brandon Smith and a business partner have purchased Fuel & Fuddle, which closed because of a minor fire in April.

Less than a year after leaving Fuel & Fuddle in Oakland to turn around a Mt. Lebanon bar, former manager Brandon Smith is returning to reopen the place where he worked for 13 years and met his future wife.

A minor fire closed Fuel & Fuddle in April, and its former owners, 8 and Jerry Dilembo, wanted to focus on expanding their Burgatory chain.

A conversation with Smith about the restaurant's repairs turned into an offer for him to buy the place, and Mike Hanley and Dilembo were happy to hand it over to someone they knew and trusted.

“I'd put in so much time there,” said Smith, who plans to reopen the Oakland Avenue institution in August. “I felt like that was my place, and it missed me.”

His partner in the business and kitchen manager will be Greg Ripper, one of Smith's old friends who joined him in buying and turning Mt. Lebanon's Korner Pub on Bower Hill Road into a destination for craft beer connoisseurs.

The two purchased Fuel & Fuddle this month for an undisclosed sum.

“We've been business partners for six months, and it's gone so well, we're expanding,” Ripper said.

Ripper owns Keystone Cafe at the Tech Center in Oakland but will close that to run the kitchen at Fuel & Fuddle.

“I've always been more of a back-of-the-house kind of guy,” said Ripper. “(Keystone Cafe) was just a three- or four-person operation, and if I'm not going to be there, things aren't going to get done.”

Hanley and Dilembo paid to replace the ventilation system after the fire, and Smith and Ripper have been upgrading the restaurant's paint, exterior, TVs and sound system. Ripper said most of Fuel & Fuddle's menu will stay the same, though he'll remove some less-popular items and make frequent updates. Smith said some connections he made with beer distributors and enthusiasts through the Korner Pub could translate into an expanded beer offering at Fuel.

“Fuel & Fuddle is a great concept, but not one that we can replicate in multiple locations,” said Hanley, one of the former owners. “It's a great little joint, and it has a very loyal following in Pittsburgh and Oakland.

“(Smith and Ripper) have youth on their side. They have a lot of energy and a lot of ideas.”

In addition to three full Burgatory restaurants, a stand in Consol Energy Center and leases for locations in the North Shore, Murrysville and Market Square, Hanley and Dilembo co-own Joe Mama's Italian Deluxe and four Uncle Sam's Subs locations.

Hanley said they are not selling those establishments but might be open to the possibility later.

Getting Fuel & Fuddle up and running will take Smith away from the Korner Pub for about a month, but a manager has been hired for the pub, he said. Later he'll split his time between working in Oakland and his hometown of Mt. Lebanon.

Matthew Santoni is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-380-5625 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.