History of Conzatti’s Italian Market in Johnstown
Culinary Flair turned into Family Affair
by Robert Long
Jan. 22, 1992
Chuck Conzatti – a trim 62-year-old with a wispy mustache and strong working-man hands – has spent a lifetime around food.
As a 12-year-old son of an Italian immigrant coal miner, Conzatti spent his afternoons in his hometown of Jerome taking door-to-door grocery orders.
He and his wife oversaw an 86-employee Johnstown area food empire. It included a successful Richland restaurant, an Italian Grocery Store, and a Pizza crust making business.
The building of the enterprises that bear the family name and employ his entire family didn’t spring to life overnight.
“It was a lot of hard work, but worth every bit of it,” said Conzatti as he sat bathed in the soft colored light filtering through his restaurant’s Tiffany lamps and stained glass.
Now semi-retired, Conzatti intersperses a steady diet of golf, bowling, fishing, and hunting with his executive duties. But he didn’t always have it so good.
Conzatti grew up on the heels of The Depression, at a time when rich meals and plentiful food ceased to exist. But even with wild game and home-grown vegetable dinners, Conzatti inherited the rich ethnic culinary flair of his Italian father and Slovak mother.
Ever since working at a grocery store as a boy, Conzatti knew food would be his life.
His progression in the food business included wielding a knife as a grocery store butcher, helping to oversee the feeding of 55,000 servicemen while in the Air Force, managing a family tavern, and selling imported salami, cheese, olives, and baklava from the back of a truck.
“I saw that there was a market here for specialty foods, so I decided to open my own place,” Conzatti said.
In 1958, he and his wife opened Conzatti’s Italian Food Store along Scalp Avenue.
“It was a huge success,” he said.
The success was followed in 1962 with the opening of Conzatti’s Italian Restaurant along Scalp Avenue. The restaurant was destroyed by fire in 1979 and reopened two years later.
Through his store and restaurant, Conzatti has been credited with helping to build up the food industry throughout the area. Conzatti says he was the first to introduce the salad bar, pizza ovens, and Buffalo wings.
“He really went out of his way to help a lot of small restaurants get started,” said Pete Panella, former owner of Pete’s Hideaway in Somerset County. Conzatti used to supply Panella with specialty cuts of meat.
With the help of his wife Rose, Conzatti rode the waves of the food trends and economic dips, growing all the while. The restaurant started with the basic steak and spaghetti fare and today, with a kitchen overseen by Rose, the fare includes a wide variety of pastas, salads, and main dishes.
The store has given birth to Belle A Rosa Pizza Crusts, which sells the pre-made crusts to area businesses.
As Conzatti eases into retirement, he’s comforted by the next generation of Conzattis taking hold.
The couple’s son, Richard, manages the restaurant; daughter, Michelle, keeps the books; son, Charles Jr., manages the store; and daughter, Cynthia, operates a family-owned sporting goods store.
“I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished, and I’m proud that I never missed a payroll,” Conzatti said on a recent morning, with the clamor of the restaurant coming to life for the day. Beside him, Rose sat with a 1-year-old grandson on her lap. “I’m also proud that all this will live on.”
What We Do Best
We supply our community with the freshest and finest deli meats and cheeses, specialty hand-butchered fresh meats, and specialty grocery ingredients only found at Conzatti’s, the area’s first and finest pre-made pizzas, delicious pre-made homemade dishes, and the area’s largest and finest selection of olives and antipasti.