Tarentum's Cycle Diner is back on track
Experience dining in a 1940s diner noshing on fresh — never frozen — fare at the newly re-opened Cycle Diner in Tarentum.
The authentically restored 80-foot 1940s O'Mahoney railroad-style diner, owned by Gatto Motorcycle but operated by Tommy Scanga of Vandergrift, re-opened Jan. 10, under a five-year lease.
George Gatto bought the diner in 1990, moved it to its present location and renovated it after it had fallen into disrepair. It has been through a few management changes over the years. Gatto Cycle Diner closed briefly last year for two months while the Gattos searched for a new manager.
The diner, which dropped the Gatto moniker and is simply “Cycle Diner,” visually commands the corner of Wood Street and Seventh Avenue in Tarentum — connecting to Gatto Cycle, a long-standing community business.
Customers can enter the diner from the street or through Gatto's showroom.
Settle into a booth or counter stool for breakfast or lunch but be forewarned — the main ingredient on the menu is freshness.
“Oh, the freezer, well it's gone,” Scanga says. “There are way too many preservatives in things.”
“This was on my bucket list,” says Scanga, who heard of the leasing opportunity on Facebook. “This is unique and I like a challenge.”
Scanga worked for six weeks preparing for the re-opening — with updates in mind.
He installed new kitchen equipment and scrapped the old. Free Wi-Fi is offered and two large-screen televisions are mounted on either side of the diner. Scanga ramped up the diner's social media presence, promoting daily specials and more on Facebook.
And paying for your meal got simpler. Credit cards are now accepted. “The old way was cash only,” he says. “Customers didn't like that.”
Mark Gatto, vice president of Gatto Cycle, is pleased with the diner updates.
“This fell together easily,” Gatto says. “Tommy brings great food, marketing and the whole package. The only thing we don't like is that (Gatto employees) are worried we are going to gain weight. I have a scale in the showroom to show how much weight we will gain.”
Scanga hails from a family of butchers, and grinds the fresh pork and Angus beef daily behind the counter, using the same Hobart grinder his late uncle Neddie owned.
He doesn't add anything but seasonings, grinding the meat twice, using the same 1925 family recipe his grandfather used.
“My uncle Neddie taught me the way to make sausage,” says Scanga, whose family ran Del Vecchio's Market in Vandergrift.
Homemade soups, daily specials, breakfast served all day and fresh ground beef, meatloaf and pork burgers are popular, Scanga says.
Homemade mozzarella and sweet or sriracha jalapeno sausage are just some of the homemade specialties that Scanga, who owned Tommy's Catering in Allegheny Township for 15 years, offers.
Scanga's favorite burger, Black Angus beef ($4.50-$12.50) with smokehouse bacon, caramelized onions, fresh mozzarella and double egg on top, can be ordered with up to four patties.
A Vandergrift smokehouse owned by Scanga provides freshly smoked slab bacon and pork.
Scanga says feedback from the locals has been positive. “It's going well and people are amazed at the quality and quantity of the food,” Scanga says.
Tarentum resident Carolyn Piskor lives a few blocks away from Cycle Diner and says she has never seen it so busy.
“It is like we stepped back in time,” says Piskor, after enjoying a recent lunch. “I was very impressed. I can't wait to go back.”
Future plans include additional hours of operation and adding a small outdoor smokehouse, Scanga says.
The diner also is available to rent for private parties.
Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.