The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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March 25, 2012

A rose of a restaurant

Family eatery has been ‘putting it together’ for 3 generations

MASURY — When Howard Quartini was a boy, he worked filling the coolers with pop bottles in the Masury restaurant his grandfather passed down to his father: the White Rose.

Now, he’s a one-man show in its kitchen, cooking five days a week for the dinner crowds who have been patronizing the small business at 802 Standard Ave. since 1940, when Quartini’s grandfather Frank came from Italy and starting cooking dishes from the old country.

“People come in every day and say there’s only a few of these places left,” the third-generation owner said. “The traditions, we just kept with them.”

Quartini, 55, learned the recipe for the White Rose’s red sauce by watching his father, Eugene Quartini. There was no trial and error involved because of the years he sat watching the process of grinding tomatoes and then “putting it together” as the family called it.

“It’s just a natural thing, no measuring cups, no nothing,” he said.

“From the time I was a little kid I was just sitting here watching, I’d watch my dad make it whenever I wasn’t in school.”

When his father retired in the mid-’80s, he asked his son if he wanted the business, and Quartini and his wife Dyanna, whose two daughters Lindsay and Joelle grew up working at the restaurant, went at it with gusto.

“I had introduced some different things on the menu, and it really took off,” Quartini said. “It came to me more of a challenge to see how many people we could serve in a night’s time, and I think that was the big thrill of it.”

It was his mother, Delores, who taught him to make the business’ signature lasagna, another recipe he perfected from watching it come together before his eyes over the years.

“I started off with three pans a week, then up to five, then seven, and sometimes I have to go with nine pans,” he said. “I try to keep it at seven.”

Quartini said he stopped counting how many meatballs are sold when he was going through 800 a week. On the low side of sauce production is 170 quarts in a week; on the high end it’s about 220. The sauce, and pans of lasagna on special occasions, are available for takeout, and Quartini said one venture in the works is bottling the sauce for sale.

Also on the menu are steaks and chops, chicken Italiano, 12-inch round pizzas, signature spinach greens seasoned with garlic and hot peppers, raviolis – but only on Thursdays (and Fridays during Lent) – and five types of pasta: vermicelli, mostaccioli, cavatelli, angel hair and linguini.

The cooking is done in the same 12-by-18-foot room as always, where more than one cook would have to squeeze around the other.

“We don’t need to be the biggest, we just say we’re the best,” Quartini said simply. “When you want red sauce, you come here.”

The main dining room used to serve as a dance floor, and a tiny room in the back housing just one table used to hold a three-piece band on the weekends in the restaurant’s maiden days.

“They used to dance all night long in this place,” Quartini said, noting it was known as the “last stop” when the trolley car came from Youngstown and used Masury as its turnaround.

The restaurant would open again for breakfast just a few hours after it closed back in those days, Quartini said.

One of its main features is the large mural that covers an entire wall in the front room, marked “the shores of Sorrento.” It was painted in 1962 by Marianne Dizilar and revamped in 1983 by Elaine Petrillo.

It’s the mural that brings childhood memories of frequent dining experiences at the White Rose to Dan DeSantis’ mind. DeSantis, of Sharpsville, said the off-the-beaten path location is part of what makes it fun to take friends there.

“People walk in and are like, where are you taking me?” he said. “First you drive up to the area, then turn the corner, and it’s this little building. And you go inside and there’s this mural, and the decor hasn’t changed in 50 years, and they say ‘Are you sure?’

“And then they order and eat and they say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ ”

DeSantis said he loves that the restaurant, and the food, hasn’t changed in all the years he’s been going there, and he can’t even tell you how many it’s been because it’s been so long.

It was a frequent stop for his family in the middle of the week – Sundays were reserved for his Italian grandmother’s food – and he still loves the sauce.

“They’re known for their spaghetti and their sauce,” he said, although he does know people who go for the pork chops. “It’s not a huge menu, but it doesn’t matter ... Nobody’s disappointed because you know what you’re getting.

“I think people would be up in arms if they changed the menu ... they’re one of the few staples still hanging around.”

Garry Clarke, who lives in Masury, has been going back again and again for 15 years for the lasagna.

“It’s the best. I don’t know of any place else that’s any better,” he said. “If I want spaghetti or I want lasagna that’s where I go.

“It’s one of those restaurants where you just automatically go back to.”

Quartini said customers who came in as children now bring their children to try the food.

“People in their 80s had their (wedding) rehearsal dinners here in the old days,” he said.

But one of his best customers to this day is his father, who has no complaints about his son’s cooking.

The elder Quartinis are often found at the eatery puttering around and enjoying the sauce.

“He eats it every chance he gets,” Quartini said.

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