Domenica Merante wanted to serve alcohol from the beginning.
“But we couldn’t,” she said. “We waited for a liquor license for a long time.”
Arrivederci, long wait.
Merante Brothers Market, an Italian store/restaurant at the end of West McMurray Road, finally secured that license and answered the call for alcohol Friday evening. The opening of its new bar/six-pack shop, Bar Antonio, came more than 19 months after the husband-and-wife co-owners, Domenica and Anthony Merante, launched their business.
“This is the first time Merante’s has been involved with alcohol,” she said, referring not only to the couple’s establishment, but to a century-old family food heritage in the Pittsburgh region.
Merante’s market, in the northeast quadrant of North Strabane Township, has undergone a mini-renovation to accommodate the new features.
The coffee shop, with drive-up window, has given way to a sparkling bar and bar area, replete with stools and a comfy-looking couch. Patrons can select from eight beers on tap, a wine list, or one of the signature or seasonal cocktails available. They also may order dinner from a Mediterranean tapas menu or from a wine dessert menu.
Beer aficionados will gravitate toward the large display case to the right of the bar. They can choose from among more than 80 varieties of six-packs, including imports, and have the options of purchasing just one beer from the case and quaffing on site, or carrying out.
In favorable weather, patrons also may lounge around the expansive, ornate patio outside the bar area.
“This is a place where you can stop for groceries, have lunch or dinner or get a six-pack,” said Ashley Watkins, the bar manager from Finleyville.
“We want to be a place that everyone wants to come to,” said Chay Schultz of Mt. Lebanon, general manager of the facility.
Merante Brothers operates daily, except certain holidays. Watkins, of Finleyville, said the bar opens at 11 a.m. with the closing time to be determined. “We have to figure that out,” she said. “We also haven’t figured out our specials, but there will be specials.”
Menu items there are available 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Happy hour is 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The neatly appointed building is a Starling Marte throw from Interstate 79, visible to northbound commuters adhering to the speed limit. Spectacular views abound outside the market, with All Saints Greek Orthodox Church across McMurray Road and Southpointe rising to the near west.
“We deliver (meals) to Southpointe,” said Domenica, a mother of three boys from adjacent Peters Township. “We have large lunch and dinner crowds from Southpointe.”
Patrons likely will increase now that John Barleycorn is in the house.
Little has changed elsewhere inside the facility. The grocery – with a large stock of deli items, pastas, sauces, oils and more – is the same. Coffee has relocated to Cucina di Domenica, the restaurant/kitchen section, as has the drive-up window for pickup of java, pre-ordered meals and groceries.
“The cucina also will be an extension of the bar. People can sit there if they don’t like the hubbub (of the bar),” said Domenica, whose business also caters.
She and her husband are maintaining a Merante tradition that dates to 1905. Anthony’s grandfather, Pasquale, arrived in Pittsburgh then and began selling items from a horse-drawn grocery. He did this for many years before returning to his native Italy to start a family and a local market.
His three sons then came to Pittsburgh and opened a grocery in Oakland in 1952. The brothers – Anthony’s father, Italo, and uncles Salvatore and Antonio – added a store in Uptown in 1960, near Mercy Hospital, and another in Oakland in 1979. The third is the only one still in business.
Anthony owns and operates two companies, Merante Contracting and AMC Trucking in Baldwin Borough, but he and Domenica decided to pursue the grocery/restaurant dynamic. They were Merantes, after all – son and daughter of Italian immigrants.
They found a property at the end of West McMurray with a house and three garages that had been abandoned, and started to cobble together a business of which they are proud today. It opened March 9, 22012.
“We built this from scratch,” Domenica said. “It’s a true small business, with no backing. It was just Anthony and me.”
She also is a food expert who graduated from a culinary school in Italy and has been a private chef. Domenica is the executive chef at her establishment, which has as much of a family flavor as it does Italian. Uncle Salvatore, 82, makes the old-world sausages sold there.
The market is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Sunday, but open the other days from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 10 p.m. for dinner.
For more information, including the menu, visit merantebrothersmarket.com.