By STACY MILLBERG - For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
Every time patrons walk in to Alessandro’s Ristorante, they can find Owner Alessandro Pilumeli in the same place, in the kitchen.
For nearly 14 years, Pilumeli has been preparing fine Italian cuisine for his patrons, five nights a week in the winter and six nights a week in the summer.
“I do all the cooking myself,” he said. “The only day of work I missed was the day my son was born in 2001. My brother came in for four hours and cooked for me.”
Alessandro’s, located at 6540 Lake Road West, will celebrate its 14th anniversary in August. Pilumeli, who moved to the United States from Italy in 1994, found the empty ice cream shop and opened the doors to his restaurant in 1999.
Pilumeli was raised in Sicily, where he worked in a restaurant and learned to cook. Upon receiving a degree in agriculture in 1988, he moved to Florence until moving to the U.S., he said.
Pilumeli met his wife, originally of Geneva, in Cleveland, where he was living at the time, and eventually found himself in Ashtabula County.
One of the biggest challenges of the restaurant’s location was its size; however, that is not the case anymore. Pilumeli is excited to announce a new addition to the restaurant. The 20x20 room features a fireplace and indoor restrooms.
Pilumeli said the addition will not serve as a way to accommodate more patrons, but as a way to serve the same number of patrons in a more spacious manor.
“We will still accommodate the same number of people, we just won’t be as cramped,” he said.
Pilumeli said the restaurant will now have about six tables in the original room and five or six tables in the new room. If patrons have to wait for a table, they can choose to wait in either room.
Besides the Italian cuisine featured on the menu, Alessandro’s features an impressive selection if fish, he said.
Pilumeli said he only serves wild fish from the ocean.
“Our fish is never from the lake,” he said. “We believe fish from the ocean is tastier. Our fish is always sautéed or grilled, it’s never breaded or fried. We don’t even have a fryer in the kitchen.”
Pilumeli said one of the best things about being in business this long is his customers trust him.
“People will walk in the door and see me in the kitchen and know I’m going to take care of things,” he said.
Pilumeli said he believes in having a menu as a base with a variety of specials. He said he tries to change the menu once a year, but will continue to make what his customers ask for if it gets removed from the menu.
Pilumeli said the restaurant’s selection of meat is also a priority. The menu features a variety of exotic meats including pheasant, rabbit, wild boar, lamb chops and duck. He said he is also working on adding elk to the menu as well. Pilumeli also makes his own bread and salad dressings.
The secret to the success of Pilumeli’s restaurant is his staff, he said.
“I have loyal hard-working people,” he said. “I very rarely hire people. When you’re small, it’s easier to do that.”
Pilumeli said during the summer months, he is fully staffed with eight employees, all of which are part-time.
“In the summer when we are busy, I work hard, but my people work just as hard,” he said. “I have several servers who have been here almost from day one.”
Alessandro’s closes for six weeks during the winter to give Pilumeli and his staff a chance for a vacation. Alessandro’s will close on Feb. 16 and re-open the beginning of April, he said.
Alessandro’s is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 8:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 4 to 9:30 p.m. During the summer months, typically from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the restaurant is open Monday through Saturday. Alessandro’s is always closed on Sundays, he said.