BEDFORD - Sara and Nick Letzo have dreamed about owning their own restaurant since they first met.
"Nick and I actually talked about this place on our first date," Sara said. "It's been a topic of conversation throughout our entire relationship."
Today, they own 10/09 Kitchen in downtown Bedford. The name references their anniversary - 10/09/11.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Nick and Sara Letzo pose in their Bedford restaurant, 10/09.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunksi
10/09 chef and owner Nick Letzo decorates a tomato and mozzarella salad with house-made dressing.
"We wanted something that had a personal touch," Nick said.
The couple purchased their building in March 2013 and opened for dinner service a few months later. Lunch was added this past March.
The Letzos met while Nick worked as sous chef and Sara as director of finance at the nearby Omni Bedford Springs Resort & Spa. Their passions work well together in their current endeavor.
Behind the Plates
Address: 132 E. Pitt St., Bedford
Phone number: 623-1130
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday (lunch); Open 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday (dinner); Closed Sunday
Price Range: $9-19 for lunch; $18-24 for
Carry Out: Yes
Specialties: Seared scallops, bucatini bolognese, variety of soups and salads
Capacity: 30 people currently; 55 total with August expansion
Reservations: Highly recommended for weekend dinners and for parties of five or larger during lunch; can also be made online at www.1009kitchen.com.
"I think it's a great partnership," Nick said, adding that Sara is "very good at keeping the balance" behind the scenes.
While Nick leads two other chefs in the kitchen and a team of five servers and assistants, Sara organizes reservations and seating arrangements - done primarily through iPad applications their servers use for sending orders to the kitchen - and handles most of the finances and business end of things.
Nick, his wife says, "has a real talent for flavor."
The cuisine is considered New American with an Italian flair, which, Sara explains, is a creation of comfort food and traditional items using a pasta or risotto base for many dishes and some Mediterranean touches.
The two most popular regular-menu items are Nick's bucatini bolognese with homemade sauce and seared scallops.
Regular customer Dean Lemley loves the bucatini dish and the restaurant. He and his wife, Vickie, stop in weekly, sometimes for business meetings during lunchtime, and often recommend their clients to the restaurant.
"I would put the restaurant against anything in New York City," Dean said.
"I think we've tried everything here and everything is above and beyond," Vickie added.
10/09 sees a 50/50 mix of locals and out-of-towners, Sara said, thanks to recommendations from the Bedford Springs and other nearby establishments. Many people also use the positive reviews on TripAdvisor and Yelp while traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike just a few miles away.
The smaller size of the menu, which features a mix of pasta, steak, seafood and poultry, as well as available vegetarian and gluten-free options, gives a guarantee of all fresh products, Sara said.
The couple adds at least one new featured menu item each week, Sara said.
"We want to keep it interesting for our local market," she said.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer, executive director of the Bedford County Chamber of Commerce and frequent customer, says the Letzos are very community minded and very supportive of other establishments.
"It's like walking into a more metropolitan place," Shaffer said of the restaurant, located near the Pitt Theatre, the Golden Eagle Inn and the Bedford County Arts Center. 10/09, Shaffer said, is completely unique from anything else in the area. "But you get it with the charm of the town."
The restaurant can currently seat about 30 people, but an expansion project into the neighboring building will expand that to about 55, Sara said, and provide extra storage space.
"To be able to offer space for small rehearsal dinners and things like that would be great," she said. The 1,500-square-foot expansion is scheduled for completion in August.
The couple has also applied for a liquor license. Currently, 10/09 is a BYOB restaurant with a $2-per-guest fee for stemware and other supplies.
Due to space constraints, Friday and Saturday dinners are usually booked up several days ahead of time. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling or via the restaurant website.
In addition to the upcoming expansion, Sara said the sky is the limit for 10/09's future. Outside catering is a possibility, as is a dream second restaurant down the line.
"We are partners in life and in the restaurant," Nick said. "I want great food and great service for everybody."