There's a brand new restaurant and bar coming to North Utica in April and it's all about Utica. Technically, It's A Utica Thing!

It's a Utica Thing! Kitchen and Bar will be opening sometime in the middle of the month at the former Charlie's Pizza at 350 Leland Avenue in the Big Lots Plaza in North Utica.

"We've completely gutted the old restaurant and designed everything brand new and I really think people are going to love it," said owner Charlie Digristina. "It's a comfortable, clean look with a brand new full bar and the perfect lighting to create an inviting atmosphere."

Digristina said his Kitchen and bar concept is all about the food and the creative cocktails that will give the locals and visitors alike, a new option for lunch and dinner.

"We're going to specialize in homemade pastas, hand tossed pizzas, steaks and amazing specials, and don't forget about our craft cocktails and the full bar," said Digristina. "I've been working on this concept for the last 10 years and it's finally coming to fruition."

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The It's a Utica Thing! brand launched nearly 10 years ago with a line of jarred Italian sauces, Tomato Pie, and Utica themed gifts. Digristina expanded with the It's A Utica Thing! food truck that brought the Utica style foods to places all over the region including Albany, Syracuse and the New York State Fair, where people yearn for Utica Italian food.

"Our sauces and Utica Tomato Pies are in grocery stores across the northeast including Wegman's, Hannaford, Price Chopper, Chanatry's and so many more, and we ship them all over the country," Digristina said. "It's been received so well that we knew it was time to create a new home base, especially now when Utica seems to be growing so fast." Digristina added that being right off the New York State Thruway is another added bonus.

Currently, Digristina and his sons, who will be working with him at the restaurant, are putting the finishing touches on the new design, and testing all of the new recipes. "I want everything perfect when we open the doors. That first impression is so important," he said.

This really is a labor of love and it's so important to get it just right.

"This really is a labor of love and it's so important to get it just right. My wife and boys will be a part of this restaurant and many of the recipes that will be featured on the menu have been passed down over the years from my grandmother, to my mother and now to me and I love sharing that with our customers," said Digristina. "We also understand the importance of hard work which was instilled in me as a kid working on our family farm," he said.

Digristina stressed how much of a family effort this new project is. "My sons are playing a large role in this latest venture," he said. "Vincenzo will be in the kitchen with me. He's a graduate of Culinary Arts of America (CIA) and has studied during the last three years in the Tuscan region of Italy. My son Charlie is a business/entrepreneur graduate of Tampa University and Rosario is a finance major at Tampa University, as well. All three of our boys will be a part of the growth as we rebrand our company," he said.

Digristina says that while the new restaurant will feature daily culinary specials and craft cocktails, "it all starts with the Utica basics - Chicken Riggies, Utica Tomato Pie, Utica Greens, and it's all washed down with Utica Club from the F. X. Matt Brewery. It is indeed A Utica Thing! and Utica will be well represented on this new menu," he added.

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The Guinness Book of World Records affirmed in 2004, that the World's Largest Dish of Pasta was made in Utica, NY with the Keeler Show. Now with WIBX, Keeler worked with Tony's Pizzeria and other to create a dish of pasta weighing over 7,000 lbs. and the event included an actual wedding. The dish of pasta weighed 7,355 lbs. (3,336 kg) and lasted in the Guinness Book for several years. The dish was assembled and the wedding was held at Sangertown Square in New Hartford, when Keeler was hosting a 6 night a week television show, The Keeler Show, on FOX 33 TV in Utica and FOX 68 in Syracuse.

 

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