Harveys Lake History

 

Grotto Pizza and Modern Sunset

 

Grotto Pizza 2019

 

Grotto Pizza - Classic Boat Show 2015

A New Grotto 1990

On November 3, 1990, the Harveys Lake Protective Association held its eighth annual Harvest Evening at the Pier III at Sunset. The association awarded Joseph Paglianite a "Civic Pride" award for demonstrating "the highest level of civic pride and confidence in the community."

On November 15, 1990, an ad in the Times-Leader announced the opening of the new Grotto Pizza at the Lake with a new trade brand: Grotto Pizza: The Legendary Taste. The rebuilt Grotto now had a more diverse menu with a variety of pasta dishes, bolis, sandwiches, hamburgers, salads, appetizers and desserts.

The expanded parking at the rear of the Grotto paved over the site of the historic La Casa nightclub. The La Casa presaged the "sports bars" of decades later in June 1951 when the La Casa installed a 3-foot by 4-foot TV screen, the largest in Luzerne County, for customers to watch television's earliest broadcasts of boxing matches. The club lost its liquor license in August 1957. Francis Ambrose purchased the La Casa to create the La Casa Amusement Center but later it served as a boat storage facility for Ambrose's marina. The uninsured La Casa was destroyed in an August 1973 fire and the site was included in Ambrose's 1977 sale of most of his Sunset interests to Joe Paglianite.

Armand Mascioli and Joe Paglianite 1990,
Courtesy Armand Mascioli

Since 1990 Armand Mascioli, son of Corso Mascioli, has served as Chief Operating Officer (CEO) of Grotto Pizza. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and previously worked in the technology field. On May 16, 1994, Grotto Pizza opened a location at the Wyoming Valley Mall. A third location was opened in May 1996 as the Grotto Gateway Sports Bar at the Gateway Shopping center in Edwardsville. Grotto Pizza was also at the Steamtown Mall, Scranton, in 1998 and in Dunmore from 1998 to 2004. The Pennsylvania Grotto locations are under the Joe Grotto, Inc., corporate umbrella.

In 1993 Armand Mascioli, Dr. Bernie Halloran and Nick Arnone purchased the 40-foot Gypsy Queen excursion boat which was built in 1921. The 20- passenger craft had been found earlier in Buffalo, NY, and likely last ran in 1991. The partners invested in the Gypsy Queen and its restoration hoping to run it on the Lake. For several years the Gypsy Queen rested on the Grotto lakefront--a reminder of the Lake's early steamboat days. However, the increasing costs of restoration and vandalism prompted the investors to sell the Gypsy Queen to the Banko restaurant interests which renamed it the Miss Arlene and converted it to a dining space attached to Banko's at its West Nanticoke location. The Miss Arlene was opened in June 2013. The J. J. Banko seafood restaurants are now closed.

On Sunday, January 28, 2001, the Citizens' Voice published an interview with Armand Mascioli regarding the family business and its nearly half-century of success:

Miss Arlene, formerly Gypsy Queen, West Nanticoke 2019

Armand Mascioli, chief operating officer for Grotto Pizza since 1990, credits the business' consistency in providing a good product and good customer service which has been responsible for its expansion.
Unlike most national restaurant pizza chains, Grotto offers all menu items for take-out and delivery, and unlike other casual eating establishments, it offers delivery, he said.
The original Harveys Lake location continues to thrive and offers a family restaurant, a sports bar called the Grand Slam and delivery to the Back Mountain area.
"It's traditional to take a drive around Harveys Lake and have some pizza," he said.
Today, Super Bowl Sunday, the three Grotto Pizza locations with sports bars will be bustling with activity on the inside, while take-out and delivery should also be on the upswing.
It is Mr. Paglianite's nephew, Mr. Mascioli, who continues to operate the business. "Joe's Pizza" was a family business which included Joe's wife, Mary Jean; his parents "Mom" and Tony "Pop" Paglianite, and his sister's family, Anna and Corso Mascioli. It started at the site once known as the "Grotto Bar" which was open 60 years ago.
Mr. Mascioli said the restaurants often get orders from families who have moved away to ship pizza to them.
"We would Federal Express pizza to California," he said. "We've sent them to Georgia and Virginia. A lot of times we don't even know they're being shipped. People will come in and ask for half-baked pizzas to send to their family."
In September 1988, the original Grotto Pizza at Harveys Lake was destroyed by fire. Without hesitation, Mr. Paglianite immediately began to rebuild with a bigger and better Grotto Pizza. At this time, Mr. Mascioli rejoined the company after years of working with high technology companies in Arizona and New Jersey.
Mr. Mascioli has worked closely with Mr. Paglianite as chief operating officer ever since the all new Grotto Pizza at Harveys Lake reopened in the fall of 1990. The new facility included dining for more than 600 people, a deck overlooking Harveys Lake, the Grand Slam Sports Bar, and delivery service throughout the Back Mountain.
"We've grown a lot in the 90s, and we found a niche for ourselves," he said. "It's different from our competition. It's three different businesses in one. We have delivery, a sports bar and family dining.
Forty-eight years later, Mr. Paglianite, now 75, said he never dreamed his pizza business would take off the way it has.
"It's something that grows on you," he said. "You always dream about having more locations."
The business has also been active in giving back to the communities which support it.
"We're very active with the Arthritis Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society Walk and Run, the Diabetes Walk and the Victory Run at Harveys Lake," Mr. Mascioli said.

Irma and Joseph Paglianite,
Joseph A. Paglianite Culinary Institute Rendering,
LCCC 2010, Paglianite Collection

In November 1996 Grotto Pizza inaugurated the Parade of Trees charity event. Local businesses dedicated to charity a decorated Christmas tree at the Grotto. Visitors purchased votes for their favorite tree. The funds are donated to charities. The 1996 winner was Pioneer Abstract to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. By 2008 over $13,000 was raised for area charities. In 2016 more than $38,000 was raised with 29 participating businesses. This sum included a substantial donation by the Joseph and Irma Paglianite Foundation.

Over the years Grotto Pizza has served as a popular meeting place for area organizations and Grotto Pizza contributes its venues for numerous charitable events in addition to providing financial and promotional support. Joe Paglianite's contributions to the community have been recognized by his installation into the Luzerne County Tavern Owners Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2010 the Italian American Association of Luzerne County awarded Joe Paglianite its Lifetime Achievement award. He is also a Paul Harris Fellow, the highest award of Rotary International.

 

Marina Pointe

In 2002-2003 the Marina Point development was presented to the municipal and county planning agencies for approval by Armand Mascioli, managing partner of the developer. After approval, construction began in July 2003 on the initial ten units.

The development displaced the Snack Shack soft ice cream shop which had opened on April 14, 2000. On the last Saturday of the summer months the Snack Shack sponsored Car Cruises, a display of street cars, muscle cars, classics, antique and custom cars.

Marina Pointe did not displace Bob's Archery and Sporting Goods which also served as a bait-and-tackle shop for Lake fishermen. Robert Albee, a Tunkhannock middle-school teacher, opened the shop in 1991 in a small commercial building he built on Paglianite property. By 2001 Albee relocated to Shavertown as Dallas Sporting Goods. This Sunset site shortly became the Lake's police headquarters.

Joe Paglianite and LCCC President Thomas Leary
2010, Paglianite Collection

The development of Marina Pointe occurred during a time of extraordinary change in the Lake's real estate market. The transformation of the Lake from a Summer colony to a residential year-round community is often credited to the housing boom in the Back Mountain and at the Lake after Tropical Storm Agnes in June 1972 with its displacement of Valley residents. But the Lake's residential growth with a decline in Summer cottage rentals and conversion of cottages to permanent homes more likely had begun after World War II and was noted in a Wilkes-Barre Record editorial in late 1947. In the immediate years before the 2008 recession, lakeside cottages could fetch $200,000-$300,000 only to be torn down to build more expansive homes on the Lake front. The recession along with community concerns and environmental factors later doomed a 117-unit townhouse plan at the former amusement park site.

Marina Commons encountered issues with the Borough when it sought expansion of the development. In early 2005 the local court supported continued construction of 35 new units. A total of 45 units have been constructed in the form of nine buildings each with five two-story luxury townhouses.

 

Afterword

Joe Paglianite and Armand Mascioli,
LCCC Culinary Institute Site 2010,
Paglianite Collection

In 2010 the Luzerne County Community College built a 22,000 square-foot, two-story culinary arts center in downtown Nanticoke partially on the site of the former headquarters of the Susquehanna Coal Company. On October 22, 2010, the LCCC dedicated the Joseph A. Paglianite Culinary Institute to honor his $1.0 million gift to the $7.0 million- dollar facility. It is the largest gift in LCCC's history. At the dedication Paglianite dedicated the institute to his parents, Antonio and Mary Paglianite, Dominick Paglianete, and to his family members. Reciting the Rotary Club International motto "Service Above Self," he stated, "Whatever you can do beyond yourself you do it in the spirit of helping one another…I am excited to give back to the community that has given me so much."

 

Many Thanks ! to Joseph A. Paglianite who graciously extended his time, memories and photographs in interviews in July 2019 to make this article both possible and accurate. Thanks, too, to Armand Mascioli, Chief Operating Office of the Grotto, for his support and renewing our friendship and memories of our Wilkes College days. The article is also based on a review of several hundred newspaper ads and articles on Grotto Pizza and Sunset covering the last 70 years. Guy Giordano, Florida, was also generous with information and photographs. It was also a pleasure to discuss the Villa Roma with Lilly Sacco. DiscoverNEPA produced the opening video which is taken from its website and is used with the permission of DiscoverNEPA and Armand Mascioli. The always too generous Bruce Hanson, Harvey's Lake, provided the Sunset Fireworks (1988) and Grotto Fire (1988) videos... FCP

 

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Copyright 2019 F. Charles Petrillo