Buying Here: Starlofts serve up luxury, views in former Tambellini Ristorante

By FITALE WARI, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – June 4th, 2017

Charlie and Janet Pellegrini worked together for many years at Tambellini Ristorante, continuing his family’s tradition of creating authentic Italian cuisine. Now they and this building are serving in a new way, welcoming new Downtown residents to the Starlofts Pittsburgh. Mr. Pellegrini’s mother, Mary Tambellini, opened the restaurant on Seventh Street with her Uncle Frank in the 1950s. For 63 years, it was a favorite stopping place before a show in the Cultural District. Regular customers became family friends and celebrity guests included Robert Goulet, Ann-Margret, Liberace and many others.

“People were great,” said Mrs. Pellegrini, smiling at the memory of working beside her husband and mother-in-law. At the time, they were one of seven Tambellini restaurants in the region. Although the restaurants operated independently, all family members emigrated from Lucca, Italy. In 2013, after the restaurant closed, 139 7th St. became the Proper Brick Oven & Tap Room. The new tenant kept the original brick oven but had no need for the upstairs banquet/dining rooms. It took four years for the couple to renovate those spaces into three loft apartments whose monthly rents range from $1,800 to $4,000; utilities are not included. Mark Viola and SASI Inc. were the architects.

The modern apartments feature 10- and 11-foot ceilings, exposed ductwork and spiral staircases but also honor the building’s history. An original brick wall from the dining room remains in the penthouse apartment. One of the three dining rooms above the restaurant was used as a Christian church for many years. On Sundays, members of I Am Sanctuary shared the second-floor space with pews, a large painting of Jesus and a dazzling pink chandelier.

Mr. and Mrs. Pellegrini want their tenants to feel at home in the bustling atmosphere of the Cultural District. Huge windows provide a front-row view of show-goers at the Benedum Center across Penn Avenue and Heinz Hall a block away. “It’s the hottest place in town,” Mrs. Pellegrini said. The 2,600-square-foot penthouse is the ultimate two-bedroom, two-bath apartment and rents for $4,000 per month. With quartz counter tops, skylights and a private rooftop deck overlooking Seventh Street and Penn Avenue, it is perfect for entertaining. The penthouse is to be rented to a man from Chicago who was attracted by its commercial-style gas range, large, airy rooms and proximity to his grown children living nearby. Since he likes to entertain, he plans to add a second gas stove, an outdoor shower and other amenities to the deck to make it his own.

The 1,200-square-foot Sky Loft has one bedroom and one bathroom and rents for $2,400 per month. Accented with turquoise pillows and throw blankets, it was decorated by Jen Reddinger of New Perspective Staging. The kitchen features gas appliances and granite counters. Another one-bedroom apartment, the Star Loft, has one bathroom, 1,000 square feet, electric appliances, granite counter tops and hard hickory floors that can stand up to even animals’ paws. It rents for $1,800 a month. All three apartments have air conditioning, ceiling fans, extra insulation, heated bathroom tiles, large closets, washers and dryers and stainless-steel appliances. Mr. Pellegrini said he and his wife initially considered turning the dining rooms into office space, but apartments seemed a better fit. The fact that it is technically two buildings — one from the early 1900s and the other built in the 1920s — made it a difficult project. The couple, who both work in real estate, consulted with other agents and Downtown residents when choosing finishes and materials. “Opportunity met preparedness” is how he describes the successful conversion from dining rooms to loft apartments.

For more information or a tour, contact the Pellegrinis at 412-943-7660 or

Fitale Wari: or 412-263-1130.

First Published June 4, 2017, 12:06am

Highlights From The Italian-American Collection

Western Pennsylvania Stories

By MELISSA E. MARINARO, Heinz History Center

Fiberglass mural of Puccini composing while Italian tenor Enrico Caruso looks on, 1990s. This is one of four reliefs that hung on the walls of Tambellini Ristorante’s Puccini Room. The other reliefs depict Madame Butterfly, Pagliacci, and the walls of Lucca. Gift of Charles Pellegrini, 2014.13.4.

Tambellini’s Ristorante on 7th Street was a staple in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District for 63 years. Founded by sisters Mary Tambellini Pellegrini and Frances Tambellini D’Amico and their uncle, Frank Tambellini, this branch of the Tambellini family operated one of nearly 10 Italian restaurants in Pittsburgh with the Tambellini name. During the early years, their regulars were mill workers who enjoed sandwiches and pasta dishes, and often ordered boilermakers to satisfy their thirst after a hard day of work.

In 1967, the family purchased Carl’s Bar of 139 7th Street. Moving into a larger building allowed for restaurant style seating and a bar area, managed by Mary’s husband Nello Pellegrini.

The new location became known as F. Tambellini’s 7th Street. They served a variety of dishes prepared in the Lucchesi style and adapted some of their native Tuscan dishes to better suit the tastes of Pittsburghers, including their legendary fried zucchini appetizer.

The enterprising family capitalized on the restaurant’s location in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District and transitioned into a go-to fine dining restaurant for patrons of the nearby theaters until closing in 2014. This was a common development for Italian restaurants–as the community gained acceptance in American society, so did their businesses and traditions. The Pellegrini family dedicated a dining room to famed Italian composer Giacomo Puccini, also from Lucca, and commissioned artist and fellow Tuscan Ivo Zini to cast large fiberglass reliefs for the walls.

Giant Eagle CEO Laura Karet on company’s prospects: ‘We have big aspirations to grow’

by Tim Schooley, Reporter – Pittsburgh Business Times

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic years, Laura Karet sounds fully confident about the prospects for Giant Eagle today.

“We have big aspirations to grow,” said Karet, who spoke Tuesday before a sold-out audience at a VisionPittsburgh luncheon at the Duquesne Club downtown.

Amid an ever crowding competitive climate in which everyone from Aldi to Inc. is selling groceries, Karet spoke as the CEO and chairwoman of a retailer that has grown to more than 470 stores and annual revenue of $11.1 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2022.

In an fireside chat interview format led by Pittsburgh Business Times Publisher Evan Rosenberg, Karet talked about Giant Eagle’s origins. The company was started by five families during the Great Depression and its ownership continues on today in a retail industry often dominated by publicly traded national chains.

Karet’s story of Giant Eagle’s ongoing growth and expansion came in two distinct parts, the first fueled by petroleum sales and the company’s decision to diversify its store types, the second by the pandemic.

“Twenty five years ago, we realized customers were starting to change their shopping habits,” she said.

She recalled how about 20 years ago Kroger, the Cincinnati-based grocery chain that doesn’t operate in the region, started putting gas pumps in their parking lots and how quickly Giant Eagle decided to do so as well.

The result soon led to the launch of the company’s GetGo convenience store chain.

Karet recalled how quickly establishing gas pumps at Giant Eagle stores as well as for the new GetGo locations resulted in major boosts in sales for everything else.

“We started buying gas pumps as fast as we could,” she said.

She added GetGo is now differentiated by its approach to food, noting there are now more GetGo locations than there are traditional Giant Eagle stores for what’s become a major growth vehicle for the company.

Giant Eagle also was able to benefit from the major societal disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, a global health crisis in which the grocery chain operated as one of the few places people were allowed to shop amid the wave of government-required shut downs.

“When Covid happened, our business grew enormously over night,” she said, adding Giant Eagle quickly worked to roll out an online delivery service that had been in the works.

That was as much of a challenge as an opportunity.

With GetGo expanding and the company also rolling out more and more Market District-branded stores, including in smaller formats, Karet sounded as though Giant Eagle has carved out a sustainable niche and territory for itself.

That’s despite sometimes jarring industry consolidation.

“When Amazon bought Whole Foods, it was like a bomb went off in the industry,” she said at one point.

Yet Karet doesn’t expect any changes to the competitive landscape to come any time soon from the proposed merger between Kroger and Albertsons. Roughly handicapping it as a 50/50 proposition to go forward, Karet expects such a merger to take years to fully pull off and integrate.

“We’re pretty big but really small compared to them,” she said of the two chain grocers.

She sees lots of opportunity for Giant Eagle to grow and expand as it becomes more difficult for smaller operators to compete.

“There’s too many opportunities, which, by the way is a good problem to have,” she said.

Karet noted how the company is active in converting established Giant Eagle stores into Market District stores, establishing new smaller-format Market District locations, as well as expanding its WetGo car wash business along with GetGo as a now proven store model.

“We’re pretty convinced we have a unique model that will allow us to compete in this hard changing world against people who are much bigger than us,” she said.

Karet recalled her early days in her career when she said she had “no interest in coming back to the company,” wishing instead to chart her own course, working early in her career for such companies as Procter & Gamble and Sara Lee.

Now, after taking on the title of chairwoman at Giant Eagle last year, Karet expects she’s worked in just about every position at the company, outside a few, such as chief information office and in the real estate department.

However, none of them equaled the kind of grounding she received actually working in the stores.

“The best training by far was working in the stores growing up,” she said.