Through five generations, one Allentown, Penn. family’s love of food—and each other—has kept this business thriving.
Louie’s Restaurant in Allentown, Pennsylvania, has been family-run throughout its 50-year history. In 1958, Sue and Gino Belletieri opened up their first restaurant business (then called Gino’s) in Allentown, Pennsylvania, serving up Italian fare from recipes handed down to them from Grandpa Belletieri, an Italian immigrant known for his homemade tomato and marinara sauces. Their sons—Louie, Gene and Peter—worked in the business, which has since been passed on to Louie. “At 92, Sue (Nana) still has a hand in what’s going on from time to time!” laughs Christine Bender Belletieri, Louie’s daughter, who now helps run the business along with Louie and her brother Josh.
The Belletieri name is well-established in the area, but in the pizzeria’s early days, the customers occasionally needed some convincing. “We were the only Italians in the neighborhood when we first began here in Allentown,” says Christine. “In the early ’70s, we discovered stromboli and began making our own recipe. No one in the area had ever heard of it before, and it became a huge hit.”
In today’s high-tech era, the family has adapted its advertising, now engaging in email marketing and promotions through its website (louiesrestaurant.com). And, since 1992, the famous Grandpa Belletieri sauce that started it all has been available in grocery stores for everyone to enjoy, which helps spread the word about the restaurant far beyond its walls.
The restaurant offers a variety of unique specialty pizzas fresh from its wood-burning oven, but Christine believes that family commitment is what really drives the business and makes loyal customers come back year after year. “Our greatest success is being able to share our business with our family,” she says. “Not everyone can say that they get to go to work and spend time with their children and parents. This is what sets us apart and drives that feel-good feeling that customers experience at Louie’s.” –Tracy Morin