Italian food lovers and sports enthusiasts have a new reason to rejoice — Peppino’s Pizzeria and Sports Grille opened its doors to hungry Spartans recently.
The Grand Rapids-based business had a soft opening Aug. 30 and a grand opening Sept. 18.
Peppino’s president Joe DiLeonardo’s father started the pizzeria in 1976 in Grand Rapids, and he turned it into a franchise in 1996. The East Lansing location is the ninth Peppino’s and the first to leave the Grand Rapids area.
“This market was missing a restaurant with our menu,” DiLeonardo said.
The area occupied by Peppino’s was previously used by the Post Bar until 2011.
Dan Tyler, general manager of Peppino’s, said business has been going well so far, but Peppino’s still needs to draw more lunch customers.
“We haven’t promoted ourselves yet, which will build our lunch business,” Tyler said.
Peppino’s has three bars in the entire establishment and 24 beers on tap, including 11 Michigan beers.
Peppino’s offers more than just pizza. Tyler said he considers the establishment to be an American-Italian restaurant because it offers a mixture of Italian cuisine, including pastas, and American food such as burgers and chicken wings.
The most popular dish is the chicken spiedini, which is DiLeonardo’s mother’s recipe. It is flattened chicken breast rolled around ham and mozzarella and served with angel hair pasta.
DiLeonardo emphasized that the franchise aspect of the business does not lessen the quality of its food.
“It’s not a typical run-of-the-mill franchise,” DiLeonardo said. “We stress a lot on the quality of our food.”
What separates Peppino’s from other pizzerias and other sports bars in the area is the environment it offers, Tyler said.
“The atmosphere here is different than what you’d get at a Buffalo Wild Wings,” Tyler said. “We’re a sports bar that does Italian food.”
There are 65 HD flat-screen TVs in the restaurant, and the front dining room is meant to promote a family-friendly environment, with each booth having its own personal TV, Tyler said.
There are two spaces that can be rented for private parties, including the Skybox, which is slated to open in a few weeks. DiLeonardo said Peppino’s also will bring in a disc jockey after 10:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights starting this weekend.
Peppino’s has a college appreciation night on Thursdays that includes $2 drinks. There will be a Samuel Adam’s-sponsored Stein Hoisting Competition this Thursday.