Station Square celebrates 35th anniversary
LIBERTY — Executive chef Ottavio Musumeci thinks big, whether it’s his wine list, his menu or the restaurant itself.
Musumeci became owner / operator 20 years ago of Station Square Ristorante, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this month. Under his ownership, the restaurant that employs about 60 people has expanded its size and the range of its menu, and Musumeci’s pasta sauces now can be found in area grocery stores as well as in Station Square’s dining room.
He added and later expanded its outdoor patio, which became important to its continued operation during the COVID-19 outbreak, and made significant renovations inside the location at 4250 Belmont Ave.
“When I bought the restaurant, only eight wines were on the wine list,” he said.
The list now includes more than 450 choices, and several rare bourbons are prominently on display at the bar.
The regular menu has more than a dozen offerings each under pasta / risotto dishes, Italian classics, seafood and steaks / chops. There’s a list of seafood specials for Lent, and 10 dishes that only were available on St. Patrick’s Day.
Musumeci has more preparations for one protein — a 14-ounce Kobe ribeye is available 10 different ways — than some restaurants have entrees.
The overwhelming selection is intentional.
“When a couple, three or four couples wants to go out to eat, they (have to) pick a place. Maybe you feel seafood. Another couple feels steak. Another wants pasta or feels Cajun. We got them all. A group of people go out at Station Square, you’ll always find something,” he said.
And just because something isn’t listed, that doesn’t mean it isn’t available.
“Someone asks for veal saltimbocca, it’s not on the menu but I got prosciutto, I got the veal, I got the sage. I’m gonna make it,” Musumeci said. “We try to go out of our way to make the couple happy in any way we can.”
About the only thing that one can’t get at Station Square is pizza. Doing pizza right takes a lot of space, more than he has in his kitchen. he said. Besides, Musumeci would rather wow diners with one of his Italian-inspired dishes.
About 75 percent of those Station Square’s diners are regulars — couples who come in every week for date night, some who are there three or four times a week, even some who eat lunch there every day. That’s another reason Musumeci likes to have a wide selection.
Musumeci was a chef in his native Italy when he met his future bride, the former Bridget Esposito, when she was in Italy and working in a restaurant after going to culinary school. He didn’t know anything about the Mahoning Valley or even Ohio when he joined her here to continue his culinary career.
“First time she tells me she is from Ohio — ‘Ohio? Where is Ohio,'” Musumeci asked.
Now he believes those Mahoning Valley diners are lucky to have such local favorites like hot peppers in oil, Italian greens and wedding soup. Musumeci said he’s had regular customers who were wintering in Florida who’ve asked him to mail them his hot peppers in oil.
“It cost me more to ship than the peppers (cost),” he said.
A recent trip to Colorado to celebrate his son’s 21st birthday also reminded him the food he and his fellow restaurateurs serve can compete with what’s available in larger markets, and they sell it at a better price.
“We have great value, great quality than any other town.”