Tambellini restaurant Downtown says arrivederci!

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After 63 years of operation, Tambellini Seventh Street Ristorante Downtown will close at the end of tonight's dinner service.

For decades, the name Tambellini has been synonymous with Italian food in Pittsburgh.

This closing marks the demise of the restaurant founded by Mary Tambellini Pellegrini, her sister, Frances Tambellini D'Amico, and her uncle, Frank Tambellini, in 1950.

Mary Pellegrini's son, Charles Pellegrini, 54, has run the restaurant for the past 25 years with the help of his wife, Janet, 52, who has assisted him over the past decade.

Ms. Pellegrini died at the age of 86 in December 2010. She earned the Panache Lifetime Achievement Award for women in food service in 1997.

Mr. Pellegrini has worked in the restaurant since his teenage years. "I remember being a busboy and getting in the way of a server named Miriam, who happened to be Tom Petty's aunt by marriage," he said.

Chef Dwayne Moore has been head chef of the restaurant for more than 20 years and has worked in the kitchen for 36 years.

Mr. Pellegrini will remain owner of the building that will house a new concept from Suzanne Hrach: Proper Brick Oven and Tap Room, which will open as early as this summer after a full interior renovation.

"You know, we had a nice offer," Mr. Pellegrini said. "Restaurants are a younger person's game. We are getting long in the tooth."

Ms. Hrach will offer 30 draught beers -- with an emphasis on local breweries -- and 20 wines on tap. The menu at the 99-seat eatery will showcase pizza with seasonal toppings, made in a wood-burning oven. The renovated interior will be "modern, casual and relaxed," she said.

At peak, eight restaurants with the Tambellini name served Pittsburgh. After tonight's closing, two Tambellini restaurants will remain. The last in-town location is Joseph Tambellini in Highland Park, which opened in 2007 in what had been the French fine dining restaurant, Laforet. Tambellini Bridgeville Restaurant and Lounge was opened in 1984 by Bruno Tambellini and is now run by his son, Dan Tambellini .

The first restaurant to carry the family name was Louis Tambellini -- owned by Mary Pellegrini's cousin -- established in 1946 on Southern Avenue on Mount Washington. By 1981, Mr. Tambellini moved to a mammoth, 700-seat space on Route 51 in Brookline. In 2006, that location was purchased by Le Mont proprietor Ed Dunlap, then converted to Amici Ristorante, which closed in 2009. This fall, Mr. Dunlap leased the space to Misaki, a 300-seat restaurant and banquet room featuring a 100-item buffet, which includes sushi, hibachi-cooked items, and pizza from a wood-burning oven.

Mr. Pellegrini admitted his decision to close Tambellini Seventh Street Ristorante was difficult. "It was an emotional decision. We have been around for decades longer than the average restaurant and have served millions of customers," he said.

"I hate to go, but I'm very positive about it."

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Melissa McCart: 412-263-1198 or on Twitter: @melissamccart.


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