Family tradition: For generations, Rizzo’s serving up Italian food, warm atmosphere

Family is the heartbeat of Rizzo’s Fine Italian Dining in Windber.

It is an everyday occurrence to see three generations of Rizzo relations working in the kitchen and throughout the restaurant, and matriarch Mildred Rizzo said, with a smile, that working with your family “is great,” a sentiment echoed by her daughter, Marie Chippie, and her grandson, Dominick Chippie, who serves as the restaurant’s general manager.

Other family members working at Rizzo’s include Mildred’s son, Butch, and her daughter-in-law, Norma.

“It is nice to be surrounded by family,” Dominick said. “You can’t beat it. We are fortunate and lucky. We have four generations – from my grandmother to my kids – that still spend time with each other.”

The restaurant’s fare is all family recipes, and Marie said that the family is always supervising the dishes that come out of the kitchen.

“But we couldn’t do it without our staff,” she added. “We have some really good cooks.”

Dominick agreed.

“We are fortunate to have a great staff that sticks with us,” he said.

Marie said some of the restaurant’s specialties are its homemade pastas – including its cavatelli – its eggplant parmesan, veal parmesan or chicken parmesan. She personally prefers the veal cutlet or the cavatelli, while Mildred sticks with spaghetti as her favorite.

“I always fall back on that,” she said.

Dominick is especially fond of Rizzo’s steak tips captiva, which consists of marinated steak tips in a captiva sauce, which is crab meat, shrimp, bacon bits and cheese mixed into a Dijon cream sauce. The sauce can be added to many of the restaurant’s dishes.

The restaurant serves homemade desserts as well, from fruit pies to cheesecake to carrot cake to creme brulee.

Rizzo’s also offers specials, including pasta night on Tuesdays.

The restaurant’s familial roots began in 1934. Mildred’s mother, Mary Rillo, owned a grocery store in Windber during the Depression, and after the repeal of Prohibition, she added a bar. She later opened the restaurant on the site.

Mildred got married to Anthony Rizzo – “I just traded in the ‘L’s for ‘Z’s,” she said, with a chuckle – and after Anthony was laid off from his job as a miner in 1955, the couple opened up their own restaurant in Central City.

“In 1965, my mother wanted to retire,” Mildred said. “She asked me to come here, so I did. We took over in 1965,” re-naming the eatery Rizzo’s.

“In 1983, my husband died, which made it hard,” she added, “but with my kids, we manage.”

The history, the warm atmosphere and especially the food make Rizzo’s Fine Italian Dining what it is.

“It’s 60 years of great food,” Dominick said.

And at Rizzo’s, family isn’t just defined by bloodlines. That designation also extends to the restaurant’s customers.

“We appreciate kids and families,” Marie said. “And it doesn’t have to be a special occasion for you to come. We have customers that come in at least once or twice a week.”

“We like the people,” Mildred added. “We treat them right.”

Mirror staff writer Cory Dobrowolsky can be reached at 946-7428.