Curly’s Grill, the Lackawannna restaurant and banquet center, is changing hands – but its chefs and menu are staying put.
Executive chef Shea Zappia and his father, Don Zappia, will buy the restaurant, said chef-owner Kirk Van Wagner. Lawyers were working on the last details Tuesday morning.
Shea Zappia said he’s keeping everyone’s favorite dishes. “The classic dishes, the jerk and the style of food won’t change,” he said. He will probably freshen up the interiors in the near future, though. The former tavern, at 647 Ridge Road, has been serving Lackawannans since the 1930s.
Zappia, 30, joined Curly’s five years ago, and has been executive chef for the last three. His father formerly ran Simme’s Martini Bar in Lancaster, and worked at area restaurants.
Van Wagner said he will stay at Curly’s, running the banquet business, which makes up about half of the restaurant’s volume.
“I thought it was just time to step back a little bit,” said Van Wagner, who is 53. Maybe he will take some time to travel. For now, he still rises at 4 a.m. to make the restaurant’s daily bread.
Van Wagner became sole owner about a year and a half ago after buying out Krista Van Wagner, his ex-wife. The Van Wagners brought fine dining with Caribbean flair to the former blue-collar joint in the 1990s, and made Curly’s a Southtowns standout.
“Shea has shown he definitely has the capability,” Van Wagner said. “I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.”
Shea was the chef in the kitchen at its last review, in July. "Curly’s broad mix of Western New York standards and international flavors makes it an excellent choice for all sorts of crowds," I wrote. "There’s a different frontman in the kitchen, but it’s still a beat that will get you dancing."
He said Curly’s crew deserved a share of credit for its success. “A lot of them have been around for 20 years," Van Wagner said. "Hardworking, dedicated, without them Curly’s couldn’t have gotten to the level it is now.”
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