Highland: Family fare

Long time waitress Sharon Dewey laughs as she talks with John and Carole Campoli of Pittsfield, seated at right, and Ray and Ann Callahan of Pittsfield (thats Ray with his back to the camera, Ann is out of frame) at the Highland Restaurant in Pittsfield on Friday night. Fri May 12 2006 (Bonnivier)

Thursday August 12, 2010

PITTSFIELD - Pasquale Arace, who owns the Highland Restaurant along with brothers Gerardo and Dario, didn't plan on taking over the family business.

"It just kind of happened," he said. "We're the third-generation owners of the place. It'll have been open for 75 years next year."

Two brothers-in-law started the restaurant back in 1936.

"My father came over as an immigrant from Italy in the mid-'50s," Arace explained. " Eventually he became head chef. In the early '70s he was allowed to buy into half of the business. The other half was passed down to a son [of one of the original owners] named Rudy Sondrini."

Family patriarch Leon Arace, along with his three sons, bought out Sondrini's half in 1991.

Nearly two decades later, Pasquale Arace is still running the restaurant with his brothers, in a life he never imagined would be his. "Growing up, my father wanted us to concentrate on school and sports," Arace said.

And he did. Arace played minor leage baseball with the Pirates.

"We had odd jobs but never worked in restaurants," he said. "Then it just kind of happened. We had to either sell the restaurant or continue the tradition, so we took over his partner's half. We take a lot of pride in it. It means a lot for us to have the family be together in Pittsfield."

And despite starting with no experience in the restaurant business, Arace and his brothers quickly took to the tasks at hand.

" Gerardo just started to learn how to cook from my father, Leon mentored under him and learned everything. Later my other brother [Dario] learned the cooking aspect. I do mostly the management aspect. We all share the duties. The three of us, it takes all we have to run things as best we can."

Now, 20 years later, the three Arace brothers are still running their restaurant in Pittsfield, where they were born and raised.

"We really care about the community," Pasquale Arace said. "We're always trying to help schools out with donations, and try to be as giving as we can. We're as good as the community we live in, and we've always been family oriented. An Italian-American place, but over the years we've also become known for our seafood, especially scallops. It's a good mix of family fare."

The menu does cover a range of options, from sandwiches ($3-$6) to spaghetti ($5-$10). Daily specials add a bit more variety to the menu. The hamburg special ($ 6) came with a generous amount of onion and tomato. The meat was not greasy at all, and fell more into the "dry patty" school of hamburger making, as opposed to the "thick and oozing juices" style of hamburger. The burger was served with cole slaw (long strips), and French fries (good consistency, if not terribly flavorful).

The clam dinner ($13) came with a small amount of well-cooked clams that were nice and chewy. I found myself still hungry, so for dessert I ordered a serving of spumoni ($4) - a triangle of Italian cherry/ pistachio/ chocolate ice cream. Having never had spumoni before, I cannot compare it to other spumoni. I can say only that it was a very tasty slice of ice cream-cake-like dessert, and a cold, dense, interesting flavor combo that made the perfect cap to my meal.

"Most of our food - including all of our sauces and soups - is made from scratch every day," Arace said. "And over the years, we've always stressed the value aspect. Quality homemade food at a bargain price."