Longtime family restaurant returning
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MOUNT VERNON — Sometimes, it just takes one question to change the course of a person’s life. For Mike Mazza, the question from a well-respected restaurateur — “Why are you a salesman?” — was one he could not answer. It was, however, the push he needed to offer to buy Allison’s Finer Diner and bring Mazza’s Restaurant back to Mount Vernon.
Mike and his two brothers, Travis and Tony, are “three strong” in their efforts to revive the family legacy. The grandsons of Joe Mazza Sr., — the visionary behind Mazza’s Restaurant — and the sons of Mike Sr. — who operated the restaurant for nearly a quarter of a century — have developed a business plan that merges the old with the new and not only gives them a place to hang their proverbial hat but also the old Mazza’s sign.
“For the last 10 years, I’ve been mindful that I might have the opportunity to have a restaurant again some day,” said Mike, who spent the last several years as a food service salesman. “I tried to put myself in a position where I was near great owners, near great chefs and near great general managers.”
Once a viable business plan was established, the brothers started to look for the right address.
“We looked at locations downtown, we looked at existing restaurants,” Mike told the News, but it wasn’t until he approached Pam and Terry Allison about Allison’s Finer Diner that they believed they had it right.
“I think the main thing is this is the newer side of town. … It’s a facility that has the same three rooms we used to have — a dining room, a banquet room and a bar. It’s a beautiful building,” said Tony.
The similarities between the new location at the corner of Coshocton and Upper Gilchrist roads, and the old Mazza’s will allow the trio to “recreate” the atmosphere that was “Mazza’s.”
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“We want to connect to the nostalgia of the old restaurant. We are going to do a complete lounge and bar renovation that is going to really showcase our family’s time in the restaurant business. There will be lots of memorabilia and lots of photos with a warm, comfortable atmosphere,” Mike said.
The new bar will open opportunities not previously available to Mazza’s patrons including 10 craft beers on tap, expanded wine selection and a custom cocktail menu. The drinks, according to Mike, pay homage to their uncles — Tony, John, Albert and Frank.
The menu will offer a combination of classic pasta dishes, steaks, seafood, sandwiches, “trend-driven” dishes and of course, Mazza’s Salad.
“We’re taking what we’ve done best and really bringing it into the 21st century,” said Mike. “We’re improving all those recipes and improving the execution of how it comes out of the kitchen.”
After sitting on the restaurant sidelines for 10 years, the third generation of Mazzas to run the restaurant have found they and the public have felt the same hunger pangs for Mazza’s pasta and its ambiance.
“That’s the coolest thing about this project,” said Tony. “People are excited because they have so many memories there. It’s unlike any other place; it’s unique because of the memories.”
The venture is a family affair but it will be Mike who is the face of the restaurant. As the general manager he will be in charge of operations including food service and dining experience. Tony, who lives in Las Vegas, will manage the business side of the restaurant and is instrumental in the set up, concepts and branding. Travis, the oldest of the siblings, will serve in an advisory role from his home in Los Angeles.
It is the exposure to a different vibe and speed of hospitality that Tony and Travis experience that will help set Mazza’s apart from other restaurants and provide that same vision Joe Sr. brought to the business.
“Las Vegas is the hospitality capital of the world and L.A., is one of the culinary capitals of the world,” said Mike. “We want to be one of the forerunners in this community — as our grandfather was years ago when he would travel to New York City and bring back ideas,” said Mike. “That’s what we want to be, the restaurant that brings back new concepts and new ideas constantly.”
While their dream has been years in the making, the Mazza sons are confident their efforts are well supported.
“My dad was a believer in each of us pursuing whatever we wanted to do,” Mike said. “I remember shortly before his death, he told me the restaurant didn’t have to be my life. I’m sure he conveyed the same message to my brothers. I think that him knowing that I took some time away from it and made the decision to do it again, I feel he would be extremely proud knowing that we got knocked down, we were kicked around a little bit, we got dusted off and we’re doing this again ourselves. I think he would be just thrilled.”
Mazza’s Restaurant, established in 1939, is expected to open its doors in June.