Obituary: Dean J. Steliotes / Innovative, influential restaurateur, founder of The Colony

Feb. 6, 1928 - Nov. 30, 2013

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Dean J. Steliotes a pioneering restaurant owner and an influence on the standards of Pittsburgh dining, died of cancer at 85.

Mr. Steliotes founded The Colony, for decades a Scott landmark that drew regular customers from across southwestern Pennsylvania. Mr. Steliotes grew up in the restaurant business, helping his parents who operated the tea rooms of the former Rosenbaum's and Frank and Seders department stores. In 1958, he decided to establish a different kind of fine dining establishment, then novel to the Pittsburgh restaurant scene -- a steakhouse. It was a hit from the day the doors opened.

Writing about a return visit to the spot in 1999, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dining critic Woodene Merriman noted that, "For years before those upstarts like Morton's of Chicago and Ruth's Chris came to town, it was known as 'the' place for steak in Pittsburgh."

Mr. Steliotes was a familiar face to the many regular customers, typically greeting diners at the door.

"Even though he was the owner, he wanted to greet the people himself," said his son and business partner, Paul Steliotes. "It seemed like he knew everyone who came in there ... he was gregarious, an outgoing personality. He could strike up a conversation with almost anybody."

When The Colony first opened, its menu had but three entrees -- filet mignon, strip steak and lobster tail.

"It was successful immediately," recalled his wife, Ann Marie Steliotes. Their marriage of 56 years came after they met on a blind date at a Fourth of July picnic.

"There was no such thing as a salad bar at the time; he had individual salad bars on each table," she said. "You see this everywhere now, but it was innovative for its time."

Writing just a few years before the business was sold, Ms. Merriman observed that while the menu had expanded over the decades, "If you had been at the Colony 20 or 30 years ago, and went back now, you'd feel at home. The club-like interior hasn't changed. Upholstered chairs, white tablecloths, grasscloth walls, some brick and paneling, soft booths, soft lighting, and no windows. It could be storming outside and you'd never know it."

After a 43-year run, Mr. Steliotes and his family sold The Colony in 2001. But they kept the business of selling The Colony Sauce, the signature marinade and all-purpose sauce that Mr. Steliotes created, and which is still widely sold.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Steliotes is survived by five sons, James of Los Angeles, Mark of Venetia, Paul of Sewickley, Greg of Pine and Ted of Pittsburgh; and a sister, Helen Harris of Scott.

Friends will be received from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at Cremation and Funeral Care, 3287 Washington Road, Peters. A Mass will be celebrated on Saturday at 11 a.m. in St. John Capistran Church, 1610 McMillan Road, Upper St. Clair.

James O'Toole: or 412-263-1562.


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