SIDNEY – Steve Fusco, who helped out at his grandfather’s pizzeria when he was a kid, got emotional as he walked through downtown Sidney and saw his grandfather’s name on the city’s newest restaurant.
“It’s real special,” Fusco said. “Just the name on that marquee and on that awning, just seeing that name brought a tear to my eye. You just can’t put a price tag on that.”
Fusco’s daughter Toni Thorne and her husband, Rob Thorne, are opening Amelio’s Pizzeria in downtown Sidney. It was a special moment for Thorne when she was able to show her dad and her uncles, Joe Fusco and Tony Fusco, the restaurant bearing their grandfather’s name.
“I’ve never seen my dad cry ever, and he was so overwhelmed that he shed some tears,” Thorne said. “It was pretty awesome.”
Amelio’s, located at 115 S. Ohio Ave. in downtown Sidney, will celebrate its grand opening Wednesday. While it’s a new restaurant, it takes its inspiration from more than 100 years of family history.
Thorne’s great-grandfather Giuseppe Amelio Cecere moved to the United States from his native Italy in 1920. He settled in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and opened a pizza shop out of his garage.
Every summer Fusco would visit his grandparents and help out at the pizzeria.
“This time of the year I would say to my mom, ‘I’m going to go my grandpa’s place and help him out, get in trouble, learn a little Italian,’” Fusco said.
One of the original pizza pans from that shop and an original advertising flier now are part of the décor at Amelio’s Pizzeria in Sidney.
“A lot of our atmosphere is pictures of him,” Thorne said of her great-grandfather. “Our logo is a younger-aged Amelio and pictures of my family.
“A lot of our pizzas and a lot of the things on our menu are named for members of the family or things in Sidney.”
The restaurant’s signature pizza, the Amelio, is a Margherita pizza. Thorne is excited about that pizza and the Godfather, a smoked bourbon drink.
Some of the recipes used at Amelio’s came from Fusco, who attended culinary school and used to own a catering business in Michigan. He’s already offered to help out in the kitchen when he and his wife, Chris Fusco, visit Sidney this summer.
“I’ll let them tell me what to do, and I’ll do whatever I can help them with,” he said.
Thorne hopes she’ll be able to start working full-time at Amelio’s later this year. Her husband already is working full-time at the restaurant, mainly in the kitchen at this point.
Neither Rob nor Toni Thorne have experience owning a restaurant, but they do have experience as small business owners, having previously owned a home health therapy company for approximately six years. The Sidney couple continued working in therapy after leaving that business but found they missed working for themselves.
“We both were just tired of health care in general and wanted to be done with therapy and just took the leap,” Thorne said.
The Thornes hired Lesli Huelskamp, of Sidney, who has more than 25 years of experience as a chef, as the executive chef of Amelio’s. With her experience and their family recipes, they crafted a menu that includes pizzas, pastas, salads, sandwiches, appetizers and deserts.
“Food is extremely important when you’re Italian,” Thorne said.
The entire family, including Fusco’s aunts Lola Singh and Enes Gampe, are excited to see Amelio’s open. And Fusco is certain the restaurant’s namesake would be excited, too.
“My grandfather would be proud,” Fusco said.