Three Generations of Italian Heritage & Family Recipes
Angelo and Giacomina, the first-generation Passalacquas, knew they had a good thing going at their little tavern just outside of Washington, Pa., when news quickly spread that they were serving real Italian spaghetti and authentic Italian bread to customers. This wasn’t a regular occurrence back in 1939, so this husband-and-wife duo gained a pretty substantial following.
So much, in fact, that they were inspired to name the little tavern The West Chestnut Spaghetti Inn to gain an even larger audience. During that 69 years at the original location, the menu expanded to offer a full range of Italian dishes, the restaurant was remodeled, the next generations took over, and the name was changed to Angelo’s Restaurant to honor its patriarch.
Current owner Michael Passalacqua, who took over the business from his father, Silvio, eventually moved the restaurant in 2008 to a larger venue located only a mile away from the original building. While he’s retained his grandparents’ vision of serving home-style Italian fare in a family-friendly setting, he’s also updated the menu to reflect the times and changing tastes of customers.
He says that he started adding more regional fare to the menu during the 1980s. From chicken Marsala and veal Piccata to original recipes created by his sister, the changes have helped Angelo’s stay competitive with newer operators. “It’s been an evolution,” says Passalacqua. “You either innovate or you die.”
Mixed in with those newer dishes are original entrées and accompaniments from close family members. The creamy Italian dressing was developed by his Aunt Carmelina in the early 1960s and remains the most popular dressing on the menu. His chef-trained sister, Tonne, created Pasta-Lacqua in the 1980s. It consists of fresh green beans and tomatoes, sautéed with garlic, white wine and Romano cheese, tossed over fettuccine.
A host of additional original dishes may be found on the menus, but what’s most important to Passalacqua is that these comfort-food favorites are served in a setting that feels like someone’s home.
“We treat our guests like guests in our home,” he stresses, “with that warmth and care you’d invite someone over your home for dinner. We’ve also never, ever, ever skimped on quality. We cook everything to order — stocks, soups, sauces, meatballs.” The house-made products extend to desserts, which include 18 different flavors of gelato, pastries and cakes.
He believes that his dedication to high-quality ingredients justifies the menu prices, which range from $12 to $33 for entrées. “I believe that our product is a value at the price that it is,” he says. “We do no sort of deals and never have.”
And finally, Passalacqua doles out solid advice on how to achieve longevity: “I am a very big believer in inventory, and weekly profit and loss statements. In this business, your inventory, your money is perishable product. If you don’t have a system for perishable product, you will be at the mercy at anyone who works for you. Systems are the secret to running a restaurant. You don’t see anyone who owns a McDonald’s restaurant making the fries. They are behind the scenes and they have tight fiscal control. It’s all got to be managed, and managed well.”