The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 3, 2013

Ashtabula's Lakeway Restaurant celebrates 60 years

Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — In 1952, Lawrence Bruno DeGeorge had a dream — opening the finest restaurant in Ashtabula County, serving the best food in a clean and friendly atmosphere.

Today, more than 60 years later, his wife, Gerri DeGeorge-Patrick, proudly says of Lakeway Restaurant, 729 Lake Ave., “This was my husband’s dream. It came true.”

Bruno and Gerri DeGeorge took over the old Lakeway, which stood next door to the present-day Lakeway, after Bruno lost his job at Reliance.

“At first, he had gumball and candy machines,” Gerri said. “Then, when the old Lakeway came up for sale, he said, ‘Let’s take a chance.’”

The old Lakeway featured a lunch counter, a deli case, sandwiches and homemade pies and pizza. Old-timers might remember when a bowl of soup cost 25-cents, a hot dog, 30-cents, and a grilled corned beef sandwich a whopping 60-cents.

The DeGeorges saved some of the old signs, painted in the 1950s and 60s by local artist Paul Tikkonon.

Gerri fondly remembers many of her old customers and employees, who worked hard for them and were trustworthy.

“Goldi Shoppart taught me how to make homemade pies,” she said. “Our customers are like family.”

But the building was old and as the years passed, one of two things had to happen — either the DeGeorges had to invest a lot of money to fix it up, or demolish it and build a new one.

They built a new one in 1975, the same year their son, David, graduated from St. John’s High School.

Three years later, David graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y., and he’s been adding his own special touch to the restaurant’s recipes throughout the past 35 years.

Today, his soups are known as exceptional and his cheesecakes — delicious!

“We do everything homemade and from scratch,” Gerri said. “It’s a lot of work and we work long hours.

When they built the new restaurant, they incorporated some of the features of the old, David said.

“We built a lunch counter with a grill and with stools on one side,” he said. “On the other side, we made it a bit more upscale ... we tried to bring together old and new.”

Gerri said when David comes up with new recipes, he tries them out on the family first: his wife, Vickie, and two children, Angela, 21, who is a nursing student at Kent State University, Kent campus; and son, Anthony, 17, who is a student at Lakeside High School.

The DeGeorge family also has gone all out to make their menu healthier.

Through consultation with the Cleveland Clinic, the Ashtabula County Medical Center and the American Heart Association, they have implemented a series of healthy guidelines into their food preparation.

All of the foods are prepared with all-vegetable, no cholesterol cooking oils and margarine.

The DeGeorges said business really picks up in the summer, thanks to boaters and fishermen flocking to the area.

Walnut Beach lures visitors from Pittsburgh and Youngstown, too.

Wintertime is slower, so they cut hours and watch the inventory, David said.

“Our employees mean so much to us,” Gerri said. “We have loyal, dependable help.”

Gerri’s favorite dishes are the homemade lasagna, creamed chicken over homemade biscuits and the “sweets.”

David said he’s more of a “routine eater,” meaning he eats the same thing every week, such as fish on Friday and the daily specials.

However, he never misses sharing a piece of pie with his mother on Wednesdays. It’s tradition, he said.

“We have a good mother-son relationship and a good working relationship,” he said. “One of us is always here (to run the business).”

Lakeway Restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday in the winter. Hours are extended in the summertime.