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Ditka restaurant may be moving into an Atria's

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By Ron Daparma
Friday, Aug. 1, 2008

Jerome Bettis, move over for "Iron Mike."

The Pittsburgh area's line-up of NFL legend-themed restaurants is about to gain another player, courtesy of the owners of Atria's restaurants here.

A local version of Mike Ditka's Restaurant -- the original is located in the heart of Chicago's Gold Coast -- has begun advertising for its first group of employees.

However, the advertisements do not mention a location, and Restaurant Holdings Inc., the company bringing it here, isn't talking.

The North Shore-based company, which operates eight Atria's in this region, also operates two Ditka's in Chicago. Patrick McDonnell, founder and CEO of Restaurant Holdings, declined to comment on Thursday.

Indications are that an Atria's may be converted to Ditka's. Atria's are located in Robinson, PNC Park on Pittsburgh's North Shore, in Mt. Lebanon, O'Hara, Peters, Richland, Pine and Murrysville.

In Chicago, Ditka's is known for its steaks and chops, including a signature offering called "Da Pork Chop."

The advertisements being carried here say the restaurant initially is looking for a service manager, sous chef and an administration assistant for the new outlet here.

Restaurant Holdings first disclosed an effort to bring a Ditka's restaurant to the region in 2003. At that time the target was the North Shore as part of office, entertainment and restaurant development planned between Heinz Field and PNC Park.

That plan still hasn't come to fruition, but the North Shore did get a famous football player's namesake restaurant in June 2007 -- the Jerome Bettis' Grille 36 opened at the Del Monte building.

Ditka is a Carnegie native who grew up in Aliquippa. He went on to star at tight end at the University of Pittsburgh and for the Chicago Bears. In 1985, he guided the Bears as coach to a Super Bowl championship in 1986, and has since experienced success as a television sports commentator and as a pitch man for various consumer products and charitable causes.

A number of other sports stars have been involved in restaurants in the Pittsburgh area over the years, including the late Willie Stargell, the Pittsburgh Pirates slugger, whose Hill District chicken restaurant gained notoriety thanks to legendary Pirates radio and television announcer Bob Prince.

Prince used to beckon Stargell to hit home runs with the cry of "spread some chicken on the Hill with Will.''

During the late 1980s, former Steelers' defensive back T.J. Thomas introduced the Applebee's national restaurant chain to Pittsburgh, and in 2006 brought the casual-dining site -- Red, Hot & Blue, A Southern Grill & Bar to The Waterfront development in West Homestead.

Steeler Hines Ward had been co-owner of the Locker Room Bar & Grille on the South Side, which declared bankruptcy in 2007 and has since closed.



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