Bradenton’s newest pizza and pasta joint, , knows that the key ingredient in the recipe for a great Italian restaurant is good, old-fashioned family tradition.
The family owned and operated restaurant opened its doors in the 71st Street Plaza on Cortez Rd in January, at the location that formerly housed Rico’s Pizzeria & Pasta House. Pete's-A-Place is already beginning to form a solid base of satisfied return customers.
“We feel very fortunate that we’ve been able to open the doors and be okay from the start,” said Maria Marcario, who co-owns the restaurant with her brothers, Pete and Jay Nicolosi. “The word of mouth advertising we’ve received has been amazing. We’re making friends here. They’re not just customers to us. We’re forming a good bond with the community and I think people really see that sincerity.
"The food’s not too shabby, either,” she added with a laugh.
Marcario’s description of Pete’s-A-Place’s food as “not too shabby” is a modest one. The menu consists of homemade Italian fare made from classic recipes, passed down and taste-perfected through generations in the Nicolosi family.
Eggplant Parmigiana, shrimp scampi and Sicilian spaghetti are among customers’ favorite menu items, with rotating daily specials such as the crab tortellini soup bringing them back for a taste of variety. In addition to Italian fare, the restaurant also serves up popular favorites such as Buffalo wings and hero sandwiches.
Any Italian cook worth his salt will tell you that the sauce makes the meal, and the man in charge of the sauces at Pete’s-A-Place is Marcario’s father, Fred Nicolosi, who hails from Sicily, Italy.
Nicolosi raised his children in the restaurant business in New York City, and when he retired and the family relocated to Florida, the kids decided to carry on the family tradition. After running a successful restaurant in Sarasota for several years, the family sold the business and decided to start again from scratch in Bradenton.
“We were all excited right after we signed the lease and my brothers were bouncing around ideas for a name," Marcario recalled. "I just had numbers and figures running around my head, so I said ‘I don’t care – we can just call it Pizza Place. As soon as I said that, my brother was like, ‘Give me a pen!’”
Marcario’s brother, Pete, immediately penned up a play on words and the name “Pete’s-A-Place” was an instant winner.
Marcario said that throughout the day, the restaurant receives a steady flow of take-out orders and in-house diners from local businesses, while families pour in during the evening for dinner. Pete’s-A-Place is closed to the public on Sundays, but opens by appointment for private events such as wine and food pairings.
The 150-seat restaurant is in the process of expanding to add a bar and cocktail lounge in the back and is working toward drawing in local bands to provide live entertainment in the evenings. Marcario said that while she and her brothers are already in the planning stages to open a Pete’s-A-Place II in Sarasota, their main focus is on gaining a strong foothold in Bradenton.
Pete’s-A-Place currently participates in events with the Manatee County Chamber of Commerce, contributes to the jazz Concert in the Park series, and volunteers in Bradenton Beach clean-up efforts.
“We’re a Mom and Pop, so it’s all about community for us,” said Marcario. “Our business plan is to keep doing what we’re doing and to do it well. For us, helping out the community is a big part of that. We all believe that you receive what you put out.”
Although starting a restaurant business is not the simplest endeavor – particularly in this economy – Marcario and her brothers are confident that Pete’s-A-Place has the recipe for success with its tight-knit staff and homemade Italian favorites.
“After all these years in the restaurant business, we’re just a well-run engine, and it’s hard to resist a meal that’s made from scratch,” Marcario said. “Our backbone is our Italian tradition: We want to share with everyone, and once you eat here, you’re family, too.”