Louie's | Allentown, PA
It's In the Sauce
As a child, Louie Belletieri just assumed everyone in the world was Italian. His family, which included two brothers, lived in an Italian enclave in Allentown, Pa., where they lived above Gino's, their small, 25-seat Italian restaurant named for his dad that opened in 1958. Eventually, his worldview grew and so would the restaurant. It ultimately got renamed to Louie's, moved to suburban Allentown and their popularity continued to soar. Today, it's one of the longest-running restaurants in the area and it's still all in the family.
These days, Belletieri, who recently turned 70, holds down the fort, but has support from his daughter, Christine, and two sons, Josh and Louie (who happens to be the third; Gino's real name was also, you guessed it, Louie). Many of the authentic Italian-American recipes they use originally came from his mother, Sue, a.k.a. Nana, who passed away in late 2015 at age 100 and worked at the restaurant into her 80s. This includes her Mom's Way Lasagna (lasagna noodles layered with pork, beef, veal, ricotta cheese and Louie's Italian sausage) and her famous manicotti, fresh handmade ricotta-stuffed crepe-like shells that can be topped with a variety of sauces, including marinara or meatballs.
And nearly everything made at Louie's is fresh, save the dry pasta. From baking their own bread and making salad dressings to breading freshly sliced eggplant for their eggplant Parmesan to making all their dozen-plus daily desserts in-house, Louie's doesn't skimp.
"We're authentic and all our cooking is fresh," Belletieri said. "We owe that to my lead cook, who is here 31 years, and the four guys under him who have all been here 20-plus years."
It's not just the kitchen staff with longevity, but many of the servers have been around for years. One, in fact, has a following and has had newspaper articles written about her. It all adds to the overall experience and that goes a long way with their customers.
"We have a rule: Nobody ever comes in without a hello, thank you or good night," Belletieri said. "The experience should be number one. Not that the food isn't important, but that's part of the experience."
The nearly 120-seat restaurant is lined with framed photos of family and friends and has a wall covered with signatures and notes from customers. While this adds to the homey ambiance, it's about the food. Seven days a week, Louie's draws a large lunch crowd for its express buffet, which they started 35 years ago. For $8.99 (seniors 65 and older get $1 off), the buffet features a choice of favorites like seafood pasta, baked ziti, baked chicken cacciatore, soups, salads, pastas and more. They also draw for their daily clam dishes, Stromboli filled with ham, capicolla, Genoa hard salami and American cheese; chicken parm; fresh salmon and scallops; and their pizzas, for which they were recently inducted into the Pizza Hall of Fame.
And when you leave, you can take Louie's with you. The restaurant has always had a sauce business featuring recipes dating back to when they opened in 1958. You can get all of their sauces — marinara, alfredo, mushroom, marsala and more — and salad dressings at the restaurant, online or at dozens of regional supermarkets. It extends the experience and that family feeling Louie's has always exhibited.
"When people come into the restaurant, the first thing they say is they feel like they're at home," Belletieri said. "That's the best compliment we can get."
- Author: Ari Bendersky
- Posted: January 04, 2017
- Categories: In Our Communities, VOL 5 - ISSUE 1 • WINTER 2017