YOUNGSTOWN -- Whether Nick Petrella was working at the Borden Dairy, at Princeton Junior High School as a shop teacher or elsewhere, his second job was almost always at the Boulevard Tavern. However, it was more than another job: The family oriented neighborhood tavern has always been part of his family.
For the past 12 years he has owned the restaurant on Youngstown's South Side, known for its spaghetti and fish dinners.
"I always had a feeling I would end up here," he said. "I helped out one or two nights a week."
In 1926, the restaurant began as the Boulevard Market, a neighborhood grocery store, and helped many people living in the adjacent neighborhoods weather the Great Depression. The year before, Petrella's grandfather built a house next door, and the family moved from Smoky Hollow to the South Side. In 1937, the Boulevard Tavern name was established, and shortly after World War II, Petrella's father and uncle ran it.
Like many area restaurants, the Boulevard Tavern has its regular customer base. Unlike many area businesses, though, it has remained a mainstay and has expanded through the hard economic times the Mahoning Valley has endured.
The restaurant's back room was built during WW II and was enlarged in 1968, Petrella said. In 1992, a year after Petrella's father, longtime owner Angelo Petrella, died, the room underwent another addition, because of an increase in business, he added.
"People used to line up out the door on Friday nights. That was eliminated with the addition of the back room," Petrella pointed out.
The Friday night fish dinner began in 1937, Petrella said. Many Catholics, who were prohibited from eating meat Fridays, came to the restaurant, and the tradition was born, he said.
Another tradition that's alive and well is the number of customers who belong to area golf leagues. Petrella's father was active in the Amateur Association and was himself an avid golfer. Petrella cited other reasons for the Boulevard Tavern's attraction to many golfers.
"At one time, this was the closest place Mill Creek golfers could get a drink. Boardman was dry," he explained. "It was the first place off the [Ohio] Turnpike in North Lima that had a liquor license."
Today, the restaurant remains successful with its basic menu, including a family recipe that goes into the spaghetti, sauce and meatballs -- as well as the oil, garlic, vinegar and salt that gives the salads their unique taste.
Petrella added that loyalty and affordable prices have benefited his restaurant. It's easy to feed a family of four for less than $20, Petrella said.
The neighborhood tavern, which continues to hire young, college-age workers, also serves up many social opportunities. "Regulars are our biggest customer base," Petrella said. "People know who they'll see and run into."