Small plates but big ideas for forthcoming Greensburg restaurant
Don't plan on taking home leftovers from Major Stokes, a new restaurant and bar expected to open this spring in downtown Greensburg.
And don't expect to watch televised sporting events while imbibing from a large selection of alcoholic beverages.
Do anticipate small plate, rotating meals featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients, along with a rotating drink menu.
And maybe look forward to some impromptu piano playing from anyone who enjoys tickling the ivories.
James Bosco, assistant professor of hospitality and tourism at Seton Hill University, is renovating the vacant site at 108 W. Pittsburgh St.
“I've always wanted to open a restaurant. My wife made me promise to wait until our youngest graduated. That was in May. I didn't wait very long. I like this spot. I think it's a good time for Greensburg. I think it's undergoing a bit of a renaissance,” he says.
Bosco, 48, of Harrison City, has a background in restaurant management, but plans his own business model.
First, a bit of history
Major William Axon Stokes once lived in the former mansion now known as Saint Mary's Hall on the Seton Hill campus. Bosco was intrigued by Major Stokes.
“(Stokes) was a private attorney here in Greensburg. We have a good back story,” Bosco says.
Known for his hospitality, Stokes hung an American flag in front of his home when it was party time, Bosco says.
“We will probably try to incorporate that into the design,” he says.
According to Bosco, Andrew Carnegie visited Stokes in a successful effort to recruit him to fight in the Civil War. Carnegie was inspired by a quote from a book he saw open, reading, “He that cannot reason is a fool. He that will not reason is a bigot. He that dare not reason is a slave.”
The building Bosco is renovating, which he purchased in 2016, dates to the 1880s and had sustained some damage from an earlier fire.
Some of the original wood flooring, exposed brick work and overhead beams will be retained and restored, he says.
“My son (Christian) and I did demo work. We filled two dumpsters with garbage,” he says.
Freshly grown, made and served
A Sustainable Pittsburgh committee member, Bosco says his restaurant will have no freezer, fryer or walk-in cooler.
“I'm going to try to be as hyper-local as possible,” he says.
A menu of 54 items is planned, with nine featured daily Tuesdays through Saturdays, with Sundays being more of a brunch menu.
A sample deck of cards featuring a likeness of Stokes lists items like balsamic roast pork, caprese salad, Mediterranean shrimp, Major Succotash, French onion soup and chanterelle risotto.
Three daily wine, liquor and beer choices will be offered, including domestic, local craft and import selections.
“There will be no draft system,” he says.
Menu items — remember, these are small plates — will cost between $3 and $7, Bosco says.
Hoping to appeal to both college students and people who work downtown, Bosco envisions a dining area with seating for about 25 and cook station in the front room and a bar in the rear.
“Business in the front, party in the back,” he jokes.
Bosco also plans to renovate the upstairs into apartments suitable for college students and young professionals.
In warm weather, he plans to serve walk-up patrons from a rear courtyard, which will also include seating.
He intends to hire a maximum of 15 people to work full time, offering an hourly wage, tip and profit sharing.
Well aware of the high turnover in many hospitality positions, he hopes to retain staff through better pay and some ownership, Bosco says.
“I'll be the general manager and I'll work every position. No one will get paid less than me,” he says.
Bosco hopes to open Major Stokes by May.
“It's going to be different than anything you have ever seen anywhere, let alone in Greensburg. It's really just going to be a fun place to hang out,” he says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or email@example.com or via Twitter @MaryPickels.