The sun set at the end of May on the long career as restaurateurs of Robert and Anna Jo Noviello, owners of a popular restaurant in Greensburg which had been in the family for three generations.
The Noviellos sold the Sunset Cafe on South Urania Avenue and Laird Street to Ronald and Angela Mellinger of Greensburg for $ 600,000.
Robert “Bob” Noviello said they wanted to sell so they could retire, which they have since done by moving to Port St. Lucie, Florida.
âWe worked on it for many years. (Anna Jo) was the backbone of the business. We had a great race, âsaid Noviello.
Noviello said he and his wife had owned the restaurant since 1986 when he bought it from his brother, Gerry Noviello.
âWe miss our customers and employees very much,â said Anna Jo Noviello. There were cooks, bartenders and waiters who had worked at the restaurant for over 20 years, she said.
She was proud that employees stayed at the restaurant, despite the pandemic-related shutdown and restrictions limiting them to offering take-out.
âLast year has been the toughest year in the industry,â said Anna Jo Noviello.
They added outdoor seating in 2020 in an area that had been used for parking.
âIt saved us last year. We had no bar activity âduring the tighter restrictions, said Anna Jo Noviello. Like other restaurants, indoor seating was limited due to social distancing and meeting limits.
It was during last year’s pandemic that Mellinger said he heard that the Noviellos were interested in selling the Sunset Cafe. They were frequent customers and knew the company had a good customer base.
Mellinger, who is operations manager for Westmoreland County Municipal Authority, draws on his wife’s business expertise. She previously worked as a controller at Nemacolin, the luxury resort in Farmington, Fayette County, according to her LinkedIn profile.
âShe loves the hospitality industry,â Mellinger said.
She drew up the business plan for the funding and, after delays related to the pandemic, they were approved, Mellinger said. State approval for various licenses has also been delayed.
He said the transition went smoothly as waiters and kitchen staff remained on staff.
Mellinger has stated that he is not a gamer and that purchasing the Sunset Cafe “is as safe as possible”.
The restaurant the Mellingers bought has been owned by the Noviello family since Robert Noviello’s grandmother, Elvira Pantalone, founded it in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression. She opened a grocery store on the ground floor of her house, while her husband, Peter, operated a shoe repair shop and a basement sales store. The family of seven lived above the deli.
Elvira Pantalone decided that she would also sell spaghetti and give away her pasta for free to friends and customers for a week to promote her cooking. When the ban was lifted in December 1933 with the repeal of the 18th Amendment banning the sale of alcohol, they applied for a liquor license and were one of the first full-service restaurants in Greensburg to be able to serve up spirits, said Anna Jo Noviello.
During the Great Depression, Negro League teams played baseball games at the nearby Offutt field, and Elvira Pantalone provided sandwiches for players, Noviello said.
When they renovated the bar several years ago, Anna Jo Noviello said she found old menus and items from when it was a grocery store.
âIt was like opening a time capsule,â Noviello said.
Anna Jo Noviello joked that the best decision she ever made was to go to Sunset Cafe 36 years ago to apply for a waiter job.
She met Bob and filled out an application. He said he would contact her when he was ready to fill the position, recalls Anna Jo Noviello.
After she left, Anna Jo said Bob told all his friends at the bar, “I’m going to marry this girl and you are all going to dance at my wedding.”
He proposed to her a month later.
âWe got married within six months and all these bar guys danced at our wedding,â said Anna Jo.
The Noviellos will celebrate their 35th birthday in Florida on August 4, after leaving the pressures of running a business in Greensburg.