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Rose Lobello builds loyal following through hard work

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Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009

At LoBello's Spaghetti House, "traditional" isn't a just word slapped on a jar you might find at a supermarket. Recipes handed down from generation to generation back to the old country still are hand made at the small Coraopolis restaurant with a loyal following.

Owner Rose LoBello has been working at the restaurant since her father opened it in 1944. He learned his recipes from his parents in his native Calabria in southern Italy. Rose was 14 when she quit high school to work with her dad, and when he died in 1971, she bought the restaurant with the encouragement of her children.

"We always made everything fresh, and still do," she says. That includes pasta and sauces made from scratch. Shopping is an everyday activity.

Rose has recovered completely from a bad car accident five years ago and a ruptured blood vessel in her brain 10 months later. But her doctors told the petite woman to cut back on strenuous work. For almost four decades, she did the shopping, cooking, serving and cleaning dishes. And she raised four children, all of them brought as infants with her to the restaurant.

Since 2004, her son, Ben, and his wife, Chris, have worked with her at the family business. He had been in commercial loan brokering and says he loves working in the restaurant although the food business is "brutal."

He says with a mixture of pride and amazement, "We actually do make everything ourselves." If the work is hard, appreciation is sweet -- and not only from customers. LoBello's has been featured on the Food Network in an episode called 'Real Deal Italian.'"

LoBello's menu includes meatball or breaded fish dinners ($8.95 lunch, $10.95 dinner), each served with a side of spaghetti. All dinners include salad, bread and butter.

The meat and cheese ravioli, $10.95 (small) and $12.95 (large), are overstuffed and obviously not machine-cut. Fettuccini is $12.95 with red sauce and $15.95 with Alfredo.

Customers also can pick their own combinations for the main course, starting with a variety of pastas -- spaghetti, "springs," rigatoni -- for $7.95 (small) and $9.95 (large). Polenta is $19.95. Then add "side dishes" -- meatball, $1.20; hot sausage, mushrooms and peppers, $2.50 each.

Rose still bakes her desserts of the day, which on a recent visit were banana and coconut cream pies, $2.95 a slice.

She loves to come out from the kitchen to greet customers, many of whom she's known for a long time. LoBello's also attracted its share of famous customers even before Sarah Palin (and her security staff) stopped by to eat during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Rose enjoys looking at the guest books and says, "I love my people. You don't have to be important or famous. You just have to be a friend."

Additional Information:

LoBello's Spaghetti House

Location: 805 Fifth Ave., Coraopolis

Hours: 4-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays. Closed Mondays.

Details: 412-264-9721

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