Finelli’s enters hall of fame

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Finelli’s Italian Villa — located at 1808 Fourth Ave., Altoona — has been open for business since Nov. 9, 1993. The 100 percent family-owned-and-operated restaurant recently achieved TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame status for receiving TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years.

A local family-owned-and-operated restaurant is a “hall of famer.”

Finelli’s Italian Villa, 1808 Fourth Ave., has achieved TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame status for receiving TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years.

Certificate of Excellence recipients include accommodations, restaurant and attractions located around the world that have continually delivered a quality customer experience.

“The Finelli family is excited to receive such a distinction of this magnitude. It’s unbelievable. It’s a distinction we never dreamed of. We’ve received a lot of awards, but this is big time. You don’t buy this award; we got the award based on comments from our customers. TripAdvisor is the largest travel guide in the world — that is what makes this phenomenal,” said owner Frank Finelli, who opened the restaurant on Nov. 9, 1993.

“Establishments earning the Certificate of Excellence are located all over the world and have continually delivered a superior customer experience,” said TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter. “Only about 7 percent of businesses on TripAdvisor receive a certificate of excellence and that number is even smaller for hall of fame recipients.”

“TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame recipients have consistently received strong praise and ratings from travelers,” said Heather Leisman, TripAdvisor’s vice president of Industry Marketing. “This recognition allows us to publicly honor businesses that are actively engaging with customers and using feedback to help travelers identify and confidently book the perfect trip.”

Finelli’s Italian Villa is a 100 percent family-owned business.

Frank is the owner, his wife Jeanne — whom he calls “the boss” — makes all of the homemade desserts, their son Anthony is the head chef and their daughter Amigh is the mixologist.

The restaurant is known for providing a “homey” feeling.

“We try to make it feel like you’re coming to your home,” Frank Finelli said.

“A Finelli meets you at the door. When you are seated, a Finelli gets your drinks. And a Finelli is making your dinner for you. It’s a Finelli experience from start to finish. There is no better way than to finish the meal with a dessert from Mrs. Finelli,” Anthony Finelli said.

Finelli’s offers a wide variety of entrees, such as pasta, fresh cut steaks, fresh chicken dishes, fresh veal and seafood.

“Anthony has a lot of good dishes, such as his crab colossal recipe and fresh veal dishes,” Frank Finelli said.

The restaurant also offers a large wine selection and Jeanne’s homemade desserts.

Finelli’s attracts customers from near and far.

“We get people because of the business that’s brought to central Pennsylvania, from families who have students at Penn State, Saint Francis, Juniata and Grier School. We get people from South America and Mexico as a result of TripAdvisor, which lets people know where we’re at,” Frank Finelli said. “But we couldn’t have done this without our local customers.”

Numerous celebrities have dined at Finelli’s over the years.

“We’ve had Henry Winkler, Gary Puckett from the Union Gap, Bob Gunton who played in ‘Shawshank Redemption’ and Maynard Ferguson,” Frank Finelli said.

“Richard Dreyfuss from ‘Jaws’ was here, and Joe Paterno was here years ago,” Anthony Finelli said.

Frank Finelli said he wanted to offer people something different when he opened the restaurant.

“We always wanted to be fine dining. We wanted to be different. We wanted to give Altoona something nicer than what they were used to,” Frank Finelli said.

Finelli’s uses all fresh ingredients and homemade pasta.

“The food business is always changing. You find new dishes; you adapt to your customers,” Anthony Finelli said.

“Anthony is very creative and accommodating to the customer’s needs,” Frank Finelli said.

“Family” is the key to Finelli’s success.

“You need to rely on each other. We are always here for each other. The toughest thing about the restaurant industry is hiring people. No one here is going anywhere,” Anthony Finelli said.

“Family is everything, we not only work together we play together,” Frank Finelli said.

Finelli’s enjoys special occasions.

“If it’s a special occasion, we can do something different. Come to Finelli’s — we can make any occasion special at Finelli’s,” Frank Finelli said.

Finelli’s also offers catering.

“We can do it on site at the restaurant. We will shut down for you any day of the week. We’ve shut down for football teams and weddings. We do a couple of weddings every summer, and there are a lot of rehearsal dinners. Here, we can seat up to 90,” Anthony Finelli said. “We also do catering off site for up to 300 to 350 people.”

The Finellis are optimistic about the future of their business.

“We will continue to deliver the highest standards of quality food, service and attention to detail. That’s our promise, from our family to you,” Frank Finelli said.