In 1932, a small Italian grocery store opened in Bloomfield. Now, after 90 years, his future in Pittsburgh’s Little Italy is uncertain.
There is no fourth generation to take over the business, and if the current owner cannot find a buyer, the grocery store could close in early 2022.
The closure of Donatelli Italian Food Center in Bloomfield could mark the end of an era in Little Italy. In an area once populated by family grocery stores and family businesses, few Italian specialty shops still stand.
Frank Donatelli and George Rosato, the original owners of Donatelli, opened the market to serve a community that was primarily made up of new Italian immigrants who arrived at the turn of the 20th century. The store had a range of Italian fare – meats, cheeses, breads and more – and its credit system fed many Bloomfield families as they sought employment to pay off their debt, which they all did.
Since then, the family business and the recipes for the food it provided have been passed down from generation to generation. In 1960, Frank Donatelli bought his partner George and called on a new partner, his son, Paul Donatelli. During its partnership with his son, the company doubled in size and began making homemade products, including pasta, dumplings, meatballs, sauces and soups. Frank Donatelli retired in 1975, which allowed Paul to partner with his two sons, Paul Jr. and Russell, to continue the Donatelli name.
With the new generation, the business has grown even further, adding more homemade items to the menu and providing homemade products to several Pittsburgh restaurants.
âI am very proud of what my family has accomplished over the years,â said Russell Donatelli, latest family member to operate the business founded by his grandfather, in a press release. âThree generations have seen our little Italian grocery store grow into an Italian specialty store known throughout the Pittsburgh area. We truly value our customers and families who have contributed to this growth.
Russell Donatelli’s father, Paul, passed away in 2015, and his brother, Paul Jr., passed away in 2016. In recent years, it was up to Russell to preserve the family legacy by managing and nurturing the store.
But without his father and brother, Russell said the workload has become unbearable in recent years, and the current labor shortage has only made matters worse.
There is also no fourth generation of Donatelli to continue doing business, so Russell is looking for someone to take over and preserve his family’s recipes and traditions – someone he hopes to find before the end of the year.
There is a precedent for new owners moving into old stores and giving businesses a much needed breath of life. Bloomfield Grocery on Cedarville Street is one of the only other Italian markets specializing in Little Italy. Formerly known as Groceria Italiana, it closed in 2018 when its owner Rose Marie Rossi, who bought it in 1998, decided it was time to retire. But the building’s new owner leased the property to Rich and Nancy Trocchio soon after, who reopened the store in 2019 under the new name. Bloomfield Groceria sells its own pasta sauce, as well as fresh pasta, meatballs and other Italian treats.
With a new owner, it’s possible Donatelli will be Bloomfield’s next comeback.
âSometimes the best people to take over a business are the ones you never thought of,â he said in the press release. âWe are looking for someone who could have the same motivation and desire to serve the community that my grandfather did almost 90 years ago. Someone who says ‘Donatelli’s has a lot of great things to do, I can take it to the next level, I can be that next generation.’ â
Anyone interested in maintaining the tradition can contact Russell Donatelli by calling the store at (412) 682-1406.