When Allentown’s Alla Famiglia restaurant expanded last year into the old Hilltop movie theater, the changes were dramatic.
Chef Jonathan Vlasic and his wife, Brandy, purchased the adjoining building on Warrington Avenue five years ago and they invested $5 million in its renovation.
The new art deco-inspired eatery, unveiled early last year, has a new entryway, an additional open kitchen, dining room and cocktail lounge, and a private ballroom that can hold more than 100 people.
But it was a less visible part of the renovation that led to expanding their line of signature sauces and olive oils: A large basement area now houses a prep facility and storage for the retail sauces.
In addition to marinara and vodka, shoppers throughout the tri-state area will soon be able to get the restaurant’s popular Diavolo and Bolognese sauces, plus a chili oil and red wine vinaigrette, at stores such as Whole Foods and Giant Eagle Market District.
The menu within the restaurant remains a mix of modern Italian fare and vintage family recipes from Italy.
Known for homemade pasta and seafood dishes, Alla Famiglia is also a go-to destination for carnivores. From the house-specialty veal chop to bone-in ribeye, Vlasic says his competition actually isn’t other Italian restaurants but upscale steak houses.
“Cooking is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” says Vlasic, a Pennsylvania Culinary School graduate who bought the already established business from restaurateur David Ayd in 2005.
Back then, Alla Famiglia was a quaint, Old World-style cucina where fewer than a dozen diners could dig into authentic Italian dishes. Vlasic extended service to the second and third floors of the building in 2007 to accommodate more customers but even that wasn’t enough to ease congestion.
The Vlasics are passionate about their business and believe their latest expansion cements Alla Famiglia as a Pittsburgh institution.
“We want to be here for a long time,” Brandy Vlasic says. “We’re trying to build something historical.”