By RONDA GREGORY
News & Journal Staff Writer
The iconic and beloved Fairmont eatery, Muriale’s Italian Restaurant, was recently named the U.S. Small Business Administration’s West Virginia District Office 2015 Family-Owned Small Business of the Year. Muriale’s received the recognition at the group’s luncheon at the Canaan Valley State Park & Conference Center in Davis last month during the 25th Annual Teaming to Win Conference. Owner Rocco Muriale had been nominated for the award by Tina Shaw, President of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re very humbled by the award,” Muriale said. “We certainly were not expecting it.”
The full-service Italian restaurant and catering business, located just off I-79 in Fairmont, has been a prime dining spot since 1969 and was started by brothers Frank and Sam Muriale, their wives and numerous other family members.
Rocco, Frank’s son, credits the restaurant’s recognition and success to its rich legacy as a family business.
“It goes back to the brothers – my father and uncle, their wives, grandparents … cousins, aunts and uncles,” stated Muriale. “We’re very proud of the foundation that was started back in the ‘60s by the family.”
The restaurant’s general manager, Erica Duarte, said she and the rest of the staff were also thrilled the restaurant received the award.
“What a huge honor for us to be recognized within the state,” she exclaimed. “It just really goes to show that all the hard work and dedication of the employees, including Rocco, pays off in the end. Folks coming into the restaurant and congratulating the staff makes a lot of things worth what we do.”
The restaurant, known as a premier employer in the area, employs 70 to 100 local residents, including many Fairmont State University students. All must go through two to four weeks of training for every position at the restaurant to ensure the highest level of service to the guests. Muriale said he credits his topnotch staff’s excellent customer service for much of the restaurant’s success.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on a friendly staff,” Muriale stated. “We feel that we are in the hospitality business and that the guest’s experience is very important. Each individual guest is to be treated with respect, concern and receive reliable service.”
“We’re very thankful for our guests who come to us on a regular basis, as well as those who are traveling throughout the area,” he added.
A loyal guest who is one of those who keeps coming back is Robert Cochran, a native of Harrison County who now is on the road often for business. His favorite Muriale’s dishes are the stuffed manicotti and sampler plate – “Taste of Italy.”
“The food is great,” he said. “And the service is great as well. It’s authentic Italian. I’ve always had a good experience here.”
Duarte reports the restaurant uses only the finest, most fresh ingredients; and while occasionally adding new recipes to their menu, guests can always count on the classic dishes they’ve loved from the restaurant’s beginning. “We’ve used the same ingredients and recipes to maintain that consistency,” she explained.
From Papa Frank’s Asparagus Salad to an array of homemade pasta dishes, guests have much variety from which to choose.
The restaurant originally only seated 32 people, but after receiving an SBA loan-guarantee in the 1990s, the establishment today seats 300. So Muriale also credits this support from the SBA and WesBanco as major contributors to the restaurant’s success by allowing expansion of the facility to be able to grow the business. “Without [it], we wouldn’t be where we are today,” he stated.
Muriale believes in giving back to the community he credits for supporting his business. He’s served on numerous Marion County boards and committees. As a Fairmont State University alum, he supports all aspects of the institution and received a letter of recommendation from President Maria C. Rose. He’s also been involved with the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, March of Dimes, Marion County Soup Opera, Marion County Humane Society, Marion County United Way, and many other community organizations and schools.
For more information about the restaurant and catering services, call (304) 363-3190; or visit www.murialesrestaurant.com.