A MT. WASHINGTON TRADITION SINCE 1983
This story is one I love to tell. Scarpaci’s is a family business and as a family we are usually sort of private. My boys aren’t usually comfortable with me “putting stuff out there” for everyone to see. But this story is one they want me to tell. So let’s get started.
In August of 1970, when a Irish girl from West Mifflin met an Italian boy from 16th Street on the Southside it was much more than a hunch, it was more than a date...it was fireworks everyday. So, the following June 12th of 1971 we became the Scarpaci's. Then we wanted some little Scarps, so first came along Michael in ‘73, Danny in ‘77 and finally Ricky in ‘79. This was our family. My three sons, my pride and joy.
We lived in Dormont but decided we needed a place to call home. So, in 1979 we bought our first home on Griffin Street on Mount Washington. We set down roots and have been here ever since. And we love being part of this community.
That’s who we are but how did we come to be bar owners? I’m getting to that part.
I was working in banking and Sonny was working in plastics at Fesco in McKees Rocks. Everyone was happy UNTIL...one Friday in March. On that day we learned that Fesco was closing their Pittsburgh division. So, we went from two incomes, to one income, to unemployment, to expired unemployment, to Sonny bartending up at the local bar called the Triangle.
Sonny was a bartender for a few years until Doris, the owner, wanted out of the business. When he told me I decided we should buy the business. That was the beginning of a long road.
Bartending wasn’t Sonny’s favorite thing so he was not interested in the idea of owning a bar. But to me it made sense. Everyday I would get up with the yellow pages and call every lending place I could find. Of course everyone said NO! With the grace of God I called a place on Liberty Ave, told my story for the 100th time and Chris (the man at the lending company) really listened to me. A few days later we met for lunch, I cried my heart out, and Chris agreed to give us the loan. At that moment I had $34.71 in my purse and that meeting was my last hope. Sonny almost died when he found out I got the money. He said, "Scarpaci, only you could talk someone into giving us this money." I just smiled...
We got our license on December 12th of 1983 and named our business Sonny’s Place. It was my idea for the name to get Sonny excited about owning the bar. We both knew this was going to be difficult and we would both have to work everyday, but we were up for the challenge. Then it hit me, I didn’t even know how to bartend. Sonny said, "dont worry I can teach you.” Being married, raising a family, working together and having him train me as a bartender may have lead us to kill each other. So, I enlisted the help of one of my best friends who was a bartender at a place called the Birmingham (we called it the Birm) on the southside. Every night when she got done working I would go to the Birm and practice. I caught on very quickly, except for draughts (every time someone came into the bar I prayed they would order a bottle) but I finally got the hang of it, thanks to SONNY. That’s right, we didn’t kill each other after all!
The bar business was truly a family affair. All the boys really got involved. Michael started packing beer after school at the age of 10 then was our DJ at the age of 16 with Matt Cooper. He managed the bar until Ricky took over. Ricky started doing the deposit at the age of 8 and still manages the bar to this day. Danny has done so many things and has worked tirelessly over the years as a bartender, beer packer, cleaner, security, and cook (you have to try Danny’s special wings).
When we first opened in 1983 draughts were $0.35, bottles were $0.75, mixed drinks were $1.25, shots were $1.00... boy have times changed! In all the years we have owned the bar we have never charged a cover fee; I never believed in them. As Sonny always said, I treated everyone like company and greeted them like they came to visit. I have always wanted everyone to feel welcome and at home when they walk into the bar. We both worked tirelessly to make our business work and make people feel welcome. And we succeeded and the bar still has that same feeling to this day.
Scarpaci’s is truly a family business and I thank God everyday for giving us three sons. Without the boys we could never have done it. One day it will all be their's and I am so glad they love the business and the community as much as I do.
This business is truly a labor of love and I want to thank all of our friends, family, bartenders, and customers that have contributed to our stability and success. I love and appreciate each and every one of you and look forward to welcoming new friends into our establishment to join in the fun.