The latest addition to Bensalem’s restaurant scene represents a dream come true for its owner and a rebirth of a once-bustling business.
Frankie’s Galloway Café opened last week at the former site of Catherine’s Restaurant on Bristol Road, near Galloway Road. It’s owner, Lou Pettinelli, has worked 25 years in the food services industry but never owned his own restaurant.
“This has been a lifelong dream and ambition,” says the 54-year-old Holland resident. “I always wanted this situation.”
Pettinelli and his wife, Eileen, and their only child, Frankie, were longtime customers of Catherine’s under its first owner.
“We were customers for close to 15 years,” he said. “It’s full circle for us.”
Most recently, Pettinelli was working as a buyer for a company that provided food for military personnel in Bahrain and Qatar. He found an ad on Craig’s List placed by the second owner of Catherine’s, whom he said had owned the place about four years and had been trying to sell it for some time.
Before he knew it, Pettinelli had his own business and was paying Bensalem contractors about $20,000 to replace kitchen equipment and flooring. The former included a chicken rotisserie, which had rendered a familiar smell that longtime customers had missed.
“Basically everything in the back is brand new,” he says. “Starting fresh was the best way to do it.”
Another change: the 95 framed prints on the walls of deceased celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Humphrey Bogart are gone. They’ve been replaced by paintings with a European feel, mostly scenes from Italy.
While the South Philly native says he is a good cook, he adds it was imperative he find a talented executive chef. So, he hired Kerry Redauner, most recently of The Historic King George II Inn in Bristol.
“It was really important that I got someone who knows what they’re doing,” says Pettinelli. “I’m a good cook, and a lot of the recipes are from my grandmother and mother, but it’s his baby.”
While the owner and cook are new, customers will see many familiar faces among the 15 employees at Frankie’s.
“About 90 percent are from the original staff,” says Pettinelli.
The remainder includes family members including 14-year-old Frankie, who works as a bus boy not far from his portrait next to the front door.
The new menus and sign outside described Frankie’s as “A Family Friendly Place,” and that means quality food at an affordable price, according to the new owner.
“We’re cheaper and better now,” he says. “Food quality is the number-one priority.”
Since breakfast has always been a big deal at the restaurant, Pettinelli says he decided he had to offer a tasty cup of whole bean coffee. The biggest raves so far have been directed at home fried potatoes “the way they should be,” says Pettinelli, who has no qualms saying the secret is a little sugar in the boiling water.
Unlike his predecessor, Pettinelli says he makes sure all baked goods are made on the premises every morning, and that includes the Italian staple biscotti.
Other specialties on the menu include lemon ricotta pancakes, a different fresh soup each day and Italian roast pork sandwiches. In a few weeks, Frankie’s will begin offering dinners as well. But not dally, as the restaurant will only stretch its closing time from 3 p.m to 7 p.m.
Pettinelli says his Bensalem location, just a couple blocks from Neshaminy Mall, is great.
“The traffic is amazing,” he says. “The customers here are honest, hard-working people who look for a great meal at a great price and I can give that to them.”
Open only about a week, Pettinelli says the good word has already spread.
“You can’t imagine the response. We’re doing really well and without any advertising; just word of mouth.”