ALEXANDRIA - When Margie Perow and one of her daughters, Tammy Basil, first began managing Paesano's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria 20 years ago, they had to learn the business of running a restaurant, Basil said. Of course, the one-time waitresses had years of customer-service experience to guide them.
Today, everything about the restaurant business is second nature as they keep the popular family-friendly and mostly family-run eatery that sits along Route 22 in Alexandria going with homemade offerings such as lasagna, meatballs, bread and an eclectic weekly specials menu.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the restaurant buzzed along.
Mirror photos by Amanda Gabeletto
Paesano’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria in Alexandria is co-owned by Margie Perow (shown) and her husband, Robert.
Cook Tiara Hamer manned the griddle. Perow's son, Robert Jr., made pizza next to the ovens on the other side of the kitchen. Granddaughter Alexsia Lyons waited on tables. Perow's daughter Margie Taneyhill also works at the restaurant. A son, John, and Basil's husband, Larry, originally took over the business.
A framed sign dedicated to the town sits on the counter among Little League photos in the homey restaurant that started out as a Dari-Treet and still serves up the soft serve. It reads: "A small town is like a big family."
"I want them to feel welcome. I want them to enjoy their food so that they would like to come back," Perow said, sitting in a booth in part of the restaurant's dining section.
Behind the Plates
Paesano's Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria
Address: 5731 William Penn Highway, Alexandria
Phone number: 669-9199
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday. noon to 10 p.m. Sunday. Deliveries end one
hour before closing.
Food price range: $2.50-$16. Cash and check only. No credit cards accepted.
Capacity: About 85
Atmosphere: Casual. Offers a party room and original Dari-Treet ice cream bar.
Specialties: Lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken salads, subs
Through a nearby doorway is another dining room they open when needed and for parties, she said.
The woman whom customers and employees call "Gram" owns the restaurant with her husband, Robert, who works behind the scenes covering maintenance, Basil said.
Perow has worked in the restaurant business since she was 12 years old, starting out behind the counter, and then as a waitress at restaurants such as nearby Miller's Diner, she said.
"Mostly I like to be around people. I like people," she said of what she enjoys about the business. She said it is "just in my blood."
While "Gram" helps set the restaurant apart, a few other aspects do too, Basil said.
"I think it's all of our homemade bread, sauces, lasagnas," she said.
"We do a lot of the homemade. Our House Italian and I think it's our weekly specials also, because I like to try to draw in different flavors that are not normally on the menu, so that they have something else to look forward to."
The specials last week included a BBQ Pub Burger, Southwest Salad and Mushroom Swiss Baked Spaghetti.
Chicken salads, the homemade lasagna and spaghetti and meatballs, subs made on homemade bread and pizza are popular menu items, Perow said.
"Best around that's what they say," she said with a laugh about their pizza.
Customers include locals, Raystown Lake visitors and travelers from as far away as California, Florida and Ohio, they said.
The customers are loyal, said Lyons, who has worked at the restaurant since she was 13.
"It's happy-go lucky," she said of the atmosphere. "And the customers that have been coming here have been coming ... regularly."
Customers like Cal and Betty Shearburn.
The Tyrone-area couple have been coming to Paesano's for 12 years. They held his 80th birthday there and dine there a couple times a week.
"Everything," Betty said with a laugh when asked what she likes about the restaurant.
"It's a very comfortable environment. Everyone's very friendly. Food's very good," Cal said.
They appreciate the homemade food and good prices, they said.
Maybe the customers like it so much because the feeling is mutual.
"I pretty much like everything," Basil said of what she enjoys about the restaurant business. "I like trying all the new things and like I said just learning from the beginning, not knowing really anything, and then we've come this far."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.