OLD FORGE — Arcaro & Genell owner Angelo Genell has a special name for the back door of his restaurant.
“We don’t consider that the kitchen door; we consider that the family and friends door,” he said. “Family and friends, they walk through the kitchen to come to the restaurant. Some restaurants put tables in the kitchen as a novelty, but people just come in there automatically.”
That list of family and friends started in 1962 when Angelo’s parents Angelo and Marie Genell went into business with Marie’s brothers, Frank and Anthony Arcaro. They purchased Laurenzi’s Restaurant at 443 S. Main St., lent their surnames in alphabetical order and started a tradition that continues with Angelo and his brother, Mark.
Angelo, 58, said 2018 marks 40 years working at the restaurant in an official capacity. He doesn’t count the years he wasn’t paid.
“We lived upstairs, so we were always downstairs helping our family,” Angelo said. “The next thing you know, 40 years have gone by.”
During that time, he and Mark learned the family recipes they keep alive today, including their pizza’s cheese blend, which Mark calls “top secret.”
Angelo said their pizza’s popularity can be attributed to a number of things — its rectangular shape, its balance between heavy and light, its aforementioned cheese blend — but the most alluring aspect has nothing to do with the pie.
“Basically, I think it’s that you’re eating it in Old Forge,” Angelo said. “It’s a destination spot.”
For Tunkhannock resident Kathy Williams, an Old Forge tray runs “nose and nose” with New York pizza — and she has the experience to weigh in on the matter.
“I’m originally from New Jersey and I never tasted pizza like this. I love it,” Williams said.
Old Forge is where Arcaro & Genell plans to stay, too. Instead of opening more locations, Angelo and Mark have opted to expand the existing building, with a restaurant remodel and the addition of a takeaway counter, both completed within the last five years. Mark said the takeaway counter has been a success with customers able to grab everything from desserts and gift baskets to pre-cooked pizza.
Along with its Italian dining experience, Arcaro & Genell also keeps another Italian tradition alive: bocce. The outdoor game, which originated in Ancient Rome, traveled with Italian immigrants to their new homes. Today, Angelo said it’s become a popular pastime at the restaurant.
“We’re involved with the bocce leagues with the Sons of Italy in Old Forge, and it’s starting to be a place where a lot of people can have fundraisers and raise money in a fun way,” Angelo said.
Angelo said he doesn’t think of hosting bocce leagues and perpetuating his family recipes as consciously keeping tradition alive. He said it’s something he and Mark do automatically.
“It’s just part of your makeup. You can’t make that happen, you know what I mean,” Angelo said. “It’s just the way we were brought up.”
There’s a list of kitchen-door-using family and friends who’d probably argue they were raised properly.
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