PHILIPSBURG — Last fall, Pat Romano Jr. bought the former Mallard Motel at 1535 Port Matilda Hwy., Philipsburg, and invested in a number of upgrades to the once dormant facility.
He planned to give it a Penn State University theme where visitors would see plenty of blue and white, and he renamed it the ‘We Are Inn’ — based off of the famous “We Are! Penn State!” chant.
While the rooms were soon open to the public, Romano said back in late September, “phase two would involve a full restaurant and bar.”
Phase two has come to fruition, with the official opening of The Lobby Grille at the We Are Inn. It was quite simple how Romano came up with the name for the restaurant portion.
“Every time we were doing work and I was meeting with vendors and whoever else was coming to do stuff ... I’d say, ‘meet at the lobby,’” Romano said. “So this is ‘The Lobby.’”
Currently the restaurant is open from 2-9 p.m. daily, with Romano hoping they’ll soon be open from noon to 9 p.m. with the ultimate goal being open for breakfast and with hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
“We have sandwiches, cheesesteaks, ice cream and more,” Romano said. “We’ve got Italian specialties — stuff that’s been in my family for generations, like pasta dinners and chicken parmesan dinners. We have some things like Ahi tuna, and some shrimp dishes. It’s an ever-evolving menu and we’re just doing more and more with it.”
The Lobby Grille also serves alcohol including some local beer, domestic beers and other wines.
Romano said they started serving Penn State Creamery ice cream on July 3 and that’s been a tremendous hit. Currently, they have 17 different flavors to offer.
“The demand was overwhelming,” Romano said.
In bringing a slice of Philadelphia to Philipsburg, Romano has tomato pies from the Corropolese Italian Bakery & Deli for sale. He also purchases the cheesesteak buns from them.
Romano said the restaurant and motel has been going great — citing local support in making this all happen.
“The support from the community has been amazing on all fronts,” Romano said. “We’ve had rooms booked completely on the weekends and a lot of (bookings) during the week. A lot of weddings, funerals and people coming in to visit family.”
Romano said they were hoping to open things up on May 5 for a “Cinco de Mayo” celebration, but COVID-19 put a halt to that, as well as it made things tough to start. However, Romano said they’ve persevered and they “are here for the long haul.”
The restaurant has been open now for two weeks, with a quiet/soft opening held on its first weekend.
“It’s going to be an evolution yet for a few weeks until we get where we need to be,” Romano said.
Once things are running smoothly with the bar/restaurant, Romano said the next goal will be to fix up the building behind the restaurant/motel.
“We’re going to put in seating for about 80 people,” Romano said. “And we’ll have a stage. We hope to have comedy nights, some blues nights, maybe even a three-piece jazz night ... and we’ll see how it goes.”
Romano said his wife, Jennifer, has been integral part, and he stressed he really wants this business to be something that helps the entire area.
“We’re going to be working on a lot of fundraising events,” Romano said.
A lot of hard work has gone into getting to this point. Romano said the endeavor has all been worth it, especially with all of the compliments he’s received.
“The community support and the positive remarks that everyone is saying,” Romano said. “People are loving the food ... I’ve been cooking (many of the dishes) since I was 10 years old with my mom and grandma.”