It’s a weekday afternoon, and Jim Alesci’s Place in Solon is bustling with activity.
Customers line up to order lunch selections of Italian sausage and peppers, penne pasta and meatballs, the famous “Big Guido” Italian sub or a warm slice of old world pizza, while the bakery counter is fielding orders for the upcoming holidays.
Marking four years last month, Jim Alesci’s Place remains a staple in Solon where “customers become friends,” Manager Frank Alesci said, in the spirit of Italian heritage.
Where old family recipes, including the freshly made bread and pasta sauce, meld with new offerings like a Gelato bar and breakfast offerings, Jim Alesci’s Place has known generations of customers throughout the years.
Opening its doors to an expanded 6,000-square-foot space on Nov. 9, 2014, Alesci’s has found its home in Solon from as far back as 1991, in its former location on Station Street. The business was started by Jim Alesci’s grandfather, father and uncles in1946 with the original store located at East 140th Street in Cleveland where it gained its reputation as a deli and bakery.
Since moving to the Solon Road location, which also features an outdoor patio and soon to be completed this spring a 6,000-square-foot downstairs addition to house production, the store has seen growth in a number of areas, Frank and sister Gabrielle Alvarez explained.
“We are expanding considerably with our catering,” Mr. Alesci said, as well as onsite services.
“We aim for our clients to feel like guests at their own events,” he added. “We want them to attend the party and take that burden off their shoulders.”
Ethan Umanski, a 2002 Solon High School graduate, has come on board, serving as event coordinator for the catered events, large and small.
“He makes everyone feel like they are the only person that exists,” Ms. Alvarez said. “He anticipates the needs of the customers and makes sure they have a seamless event.”
Alesci’s caters events from five to over 500 or more people and their offerings are not just Italian food, but more creative custom menu planning as well.
Their expanded downstairs will help with food preparation for the variety of events and parties they cater. It will add another 6,000 square feet to the operation, for a total of 12,400. The downstairs will be used for management offices, an inventory room as well as a baking and cooking area.
“We like to call it our engine or back of the house,” Frank Alesci said.
“We moved here to serve our customers,” Jim Alesci said of the Solon Road location, which is next to the Solon Police Department. “We came here to expand our offerings and service our customers in a more effective way.”
Ms. Alvarez said that even at the Solon Road location, the operation outgrew its upstairs space quickly.
“Every square inch is used,” she said.
Frank Alesci said foot traffic has grown over the past four years. In recent years, they have expanded their pastry offerings as well as began selling gourmet coffees.
“People come here because they know they can get what they need,” Ms. Alvarez said. “We’re doing something right.”
Frank Alesci said though life and business is at a faster pace, they still “give that neighborhood feel” in the store.
With a team of about 35 employees, Frank Alesci, Ms. Alvarez and sister Brigette Alesci, who represent the fourth generation, work side by side each day in a friendly, warm atmosphere where everyone knows your name.
“Over these four years, we reinforced we have the finest customers in town,” Frank Alesci said. “Without their support we would not be here.
“Solon is a great place to do business,” Ms. Alvarez continued. “We love our industrial neighbors, our lunch and catering customers and all the great families that come in.”
While it is a tagline that Alesci’s is a place where customers become friends, Frank Alesci said it is something they truly believe.
A typical day at the store is filled with Italian or holiday music playing, lots of laughter and a very fast-paced operation.
“There are always a lot of people hanging out here,” Frank Alesci said. Jim Alesci often is found sitting with his grade school buddies from Warrensville Heights.
“It’s like 1,500 years of friendships sitting down at a table,” Frank Alesci said.
Some other changes during the four years on Solon Road include expanding their hours to provide some breakfast items for customers, including breakfast calzones and Lavazza coffee from Italy. Alesci’s opens at 7:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
In the new year, they will launch build-your-own risotto bowls as well as feature more wine tasting and wine service on premises due to an altered liquor license.
The popular offerings will remain including the tomato basil pizza, lasagna, meatballs, Muffuletta, white and old fashioned pizza.
“Bread is the number one embodiment of passing it down,” Frank Alesci noted, with the family still making an old recipe. The same with the sauce.
“It’s been perfected over the years with the best tomato products,” Ms. Alvarez said.
Right now, the staff is busy with Christmas orders. “Our daily traditions are the features of people’s holiday dinner tables,” Frank Alesci said.
“The emphasis here is our customers,” Frank Alesci added.