At Georgetowne Inn, diners eat crab Louis and steak dinners in a dining room framed by wood paneling and stucco stalactites. These days are numbered, as the Mount Washington stalwart restaurant will close Sunday.
A tax lien for $23,791 was filed last month, and a health department violation for lack of adequate refrigeration last summer illuminated the Georgetowne Inn's struggles as it weathered competition for Pittsburgh diners.
Last week, Altius Modern Bistro, LP -- the partnership between Bea DeFrancis and Jessica Bauer of Bistro 19 in Mt. Lebanon-- requested the state Liquor Control Board transfer a liquor license to the Georgetowne space from the Ristorante Napoli Da Valentino, a former restaurant in Brentwood.
The partners plan to gut the interior and the facade to open an "upscale, contemporary bistro" by February 2014. They signed the lease two months ago and will take over the space Aug. 1. Ms. Bauer will be the executive chef.
The view at Georgetowne Inn attracted residents for special occasions and was among the more moderately priced neighborhood restaurants with a view.
"Maybe the prices are an attraction," wrote Woodene Merriman in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review from 1994. "Consider this: A cheeseboard, soup, spinach salad, baked potato, carrots, char-broiled swordfish, individual loaf of bread, and ice cream or sherbet, $15.95," she wrote. "That's a lot of food!"
These days, appetizers start at about $10 and prices peak at $47 for surf and turf.
Georgetowne Inn is one of seven restaurants on Mount Washington touted for the view; the others are The Grandview Saloon & the Coal Hill Steakhouse, Isabela on Grandview, Bella Vista Ristorante Italiano, Tin Angel, LeMont and Monterey Bay Fish Grotto.
George S. Aiken, proprietor of George Aiken's shops and Fairchild's Restaurant in Monroeville, opened Georgetowne Inn in 1974. Executive chef Michael Budway, who cooked at the restaurant since 1989, bought it from him in 2003. Mr. Budway is eyeing two spaces in Lawrenceville, where he intends to open a new restaurant concept.
Mr. Aiken died in 2007.
Part of the lore of Georgetowne Inn was an epic wait for tables. In Pittsburgh Press reviews in '86 and '82, authors emphasized this as well as a festive dining room.
A fire caused $250,000 damage in June 1982. It reopened that fall.
Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198 or on Twitter: @melissamccart.