Most of us have noticed some activity at 4217 Lafayette Street and rumors abound about the possibilities of what is to come. Business owners Arty, Paula and Bryan are hoping to open Penello’s Italian Cuisine during the first week of July.

The family was born and raised on Long Island in New York. Arty served four years in the Air Force and returned to live in New York. Arty and Paula met while working at a Ford dealership there. During this time he also served as a volunteer fire fighter for 30 years. On his record day, Arty responded to 33 fires. This was during the 1995 wild fires.

While raising their family, Arty worked for the New York Transit Authority for 20 years. For the next 10 years, he managed a catering company. “We learned how to make a dining experience fancy without charging patrons tons of money,” Arty explained. “We did everything from back yard barbecues to fancy events,” he added.

Cooking carried over into their family life. “While I was growing up, no matter what we did, it always revolved around good food,” Bryan shared. “I learned that you don’t have to be related by blood to be family,” he continued. Much of the food was family recipes past down over time. “I always wanted to own a restaurant, so I served food to the friends we loved,” Arty clarified.

Arty and Paula owned some property at Compass Lake and in 2006 someone made them an offer. So the family decided to come to the area and take a look at their investment. During the visit, they fell in love with the area and moved here in July of the same year. “We loved the slower pace, nicer people and milder climate,” Arty added.

Bryan started attending Marianna High School and taking culinary classes in the program under Susie Barber. When he graduated, Bryan had three years of culinary classes under his belt. He immediately enrolled in the culinary program at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. After completing 75 percent of his courses, Bryan received a job offer in New York City. In August of 2011, he returned to New York for a couple of years, where he received on-the-job training at Tuscany Gourmet Market and Paul’s Italian American Kitchen. Life was good in New York, but Bryan missed Florida, family, friends and lake life. In 2013, he returned and went to work for Mark Panichella at Madison’s Restaurant. Mark convinced Bryan to complete his culinary studies. In 2016, Bryan graduated from the culinary program and Chipola College.

After graduation, Bryan met and fell in love with Cheyenne Raines. The couple began planning a wedding to take place on Oct. 27, 2018. “My suit was engraved with the date October 27, 2018,” Bryan explained. Much of the wedding and wedding reception items had already been ordered with dates, when Hurricane Michael came through on Oct. 10 and disrupted everyone’s plans. The power in our home did not return until the day the wedding was scheduled to take place. The couple was married on Jan. 19, 2019, in the Blountstown Civic Center. While planning the restaurant, Bryan worked with Metric Engineering.

New York-style Italian cuisine will be served with sauces that take between 12 and 24 hours to prepare, sweetened with natural ingredients, no sugar and little salt. “Our sauce is thick and must pass the spoon test, where the spoon stands up straight before we will serve it,” explained Arty. The fare includes a New York-style cheesecake that stands two-and-half inches tall and a delightful tiramisu. “We are focused on doing business locally in Marianna,” Bryan shared. In fact, Arty and Bryan have been working with Southern Craft Creamery to create a specialized “surprise” ice cream for the restaurant. I had the pleasure of tasting this well-kept secret, which still has my mouth watering for more. Bryan explained that when customers receive their bill, they will be given another surprise treat. Most of the dishes prepared are from family recipes. “When I was growing up my dad did most of the cooking and my mom did most of the baking,” Bryan continued. Arty explained, “Over the last two years I have been working on zucchini and squash noodles to provide a healthy option,” for those who do not wish to enjoy the richer dishes. The owners plan to serve seasonal vegetables for side dishes locally grown and from the local farmer’s market. Prices will be mid-ranged with a wonderful dining experience. Wine and beer will be available.

In addition to the dinner menu, the owners will provide a full lunch menu including pasta, subs and salads “all in straight-from-New-York style,” Arty explained. “We want people to come in and consistently see and taste the difference between the quality of our food as compared to food from a restaurant chain,” Bryan added.

“The entire atmosphere is family oriented,” Arty added. On Sundays there will be a reduced price menu with all the same wonderful food, but family size. The wait team will serve the Italian cuisine on a large platter with individual dishes for each family member to create a home-like feel.

One Monday evening a month the owners will have a Wine and Cheese Night. Patrons will be able to pay an affordable set price for menu items, which will include high-end cheeses and meats, some of which cost the owners $18 a pound. The owners are looking for feedback for future recipes. “It’s a great time to hang out with friends and enjoy a night out,” Arty explained.

In the future the owners are pondering the idea of baking classes. “We want to be involved as much as possible with the community,” Bryan added. “We’ve been talking to Ms. Fuqua about offering patrons an option to donate to Partners for Pets and be entered into a drawing at the restaurant,” Arty explained. “We’ve also been talking to Ms. Barber at Marianna High School about internships,” Bryan continued. Once the restaurant is established take-out and catering will be available.

The dining area is decorated in peach and burgundy with mahogany accents. It features 16 tables. The owners have done most of the renovations as a family. There are no dress requirements other than shoes and shirts. While reservations are not required, they are recommended in the beginning to avoid long waits.

Arty and Paula live at Compass Lake. They have two sons, Bryan and A.J. Paula works for Coca-Cola. “We love it here and look forward to many years of happiness,” Arty shared.

What a wonderful family and business to have in Marianna! Visit Panello’s Italian Cuisine at 4217 Lafayette Street, Wednesday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. until 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call 850-526-5200. Visit the City of Marianna’s website at http://www.mariannafl.city/335/New-Businesses-and-Other-Community-News to learn more about businesses in Marianna.

Kay Dennis, MBA, MPA, A.I.C.P., is the director of Municipal Development for the City of Marianna.

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