Italian restaurateur gets back in the game

Former owner of Paolo's Italian Restaurant to open new Walnutport eatery featuring big portions.

Restaurateur Paolo Nota is no stranger to the Lehigh Valley's dining scene. He earned his fame as owner and chef at Paolo's Italian Restaurant in Northampton, where he won the hearts and stomachs of Italian food lovers with his large selection of fare offered in super-sized portions.

He surprised many regular patrons when he sold that restaurant two years ago to his sous chef, Joe Sweeney.

On Thursday, Nota will once again begin sharing his culinary talent when he opens his new restaurant, A Ca Mia, at 4330 Lehigh Drive in Lehigh Towne Center in Walnutport.

Yes, you can expect some of your favorites from the menu at Paulo's, he said. But there also will be different menu items and approaches to the way he does business at the new place.

A Ca Mia will have a homey atmosphere and will be smaller than Paolo's, seating about 60 rather than 100.

Nota, who lives in Walnutport and has been in the restaurant business 32 years, wanted a restaurant closer to home and more manageable so he could spend more time with his family.

"Family is everything," said Nota, who tries to treat his patrons like family, as well. "When I came to this country, my desire was to cater to families to make them happy with good food at affordable prices."

Those who loved his hefty portions won't be disappointed. They'll still be available. But he'll also offer many of his dishes in smaller portions for those who aren't big eaters or those who are heading straight to a movie and don't want to deal with leftovers, he said.

He'll have two separate menus — one for salads and sandwiches and one for dinners and appetizers. And, since there's no liquor license, you're invited to BYOB.

A Ca Mia will be open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday. You can make reservations at 610-760-3207.

The Burgery Company opened its second location on Tuesday. It moved into the 6034 Route 309 building in Upper Saucon Township that once was the old Windsor Hotel. It's along the section of Route 309 in Center Valley that splits, so you'll have to be heading north on the highway to access it.

Owner Carl Billera said you'll find the same menu of gourmet burgers served at his first location on Chestnut Street in Emmaus — everything from the usual beef, veggie or turkey to more exotic options you'd never find at a fast-food chain restaurant, such as bison, ostrich, venison, elk and fish.

It also has freshly baked buns, sweet potatoes fries, a variety of milkshakes and more. Corn nuggets are a specialty. Check out the menu: http://www.theburgerycompany.com/menu.html.

While we're in that neck of the woods, I received a response to my query a few weeks ago about the closing of Piccadelly Café at 3610 Route 378 in Lower Saucon Township. Terry Mutchler of Bethlehem, who talked to the café's owners before it closed, said they cited a rent increase and a multiyear lease requirement as the cause. It just wasn't feasible in the current economy, the owner told her.

That new Thai restaurant has opened in the Kmart Shopping Center on Tilghman Street in South Whitehall Township. Thai Avenue Restaurant, which took over the spot previously occupied by Burrito Grille, offers a full selection of Thai cuisine courses, from appetizers, soups and salads to entrees and desserts.

It's owned by Thailand native Matchima Damp, who came this country about six years ago and opened her first restaurant in Scranton. She also owns Thai Thai House at 302 Main St. in Emmaus and a Thai restaurant in Bethlehem. The restaurant, which seats about 50, is BYOB.

Releases on "pop-up shops" seem to be finding their way into the Retail Watch email box. These are retailers that set up merchandise spaces within other retailers to expand the options at the hosting store and give added exposure to the pop-up shop.

Home & Planet in Bethlehem, for example, has 12 pop-ups in its store for the holiday season, according to store owner Jon Clark. "Pop-up Palooza," as the event is termed, will run through Jan. 15 and feature such merchants as Lost Soul Skateboards, Tangerine gift shop, Bluefish organic clothing, 5050 Company original art and Lewnes and Reckner hand-blown glass. Indeed, there will be plenty of gifts to choose from at Home & Planet, at 25 E. Third St.

And, my fellow Retail Watchers, we're all on the hunt for gifts now, aren't we? Some of you on the prowl might make it to Boscov's, where there are some interesting changes in the store's format on the horizon.

Last week, the 40-store regional chain with locations at Lehigh Valley Mall and Palmer Park Mall announced it is eliminating its section of appliances and electronics and using the space to grow its furniture selections. The store apparently wants to stick with what it does well, and leave the electronics and appliances to the Best Buys of the world. To fill the space, Boscov's will add furniture from the shuttered Bombay Co. shops.

Inventory for the appliances and electronics section should draw down by January and be gone from stores in February or March, Boscov's Chairman Albert R. Boscov said.

Do I smell some holiday deals?

Retail Watch keeps track of new store, restaurant and bank development in the Lehigh Valley. Have a question about a retail construction project, a store opening or a chain you'd like to see come to the area? Call features reporter Irene Kraft at 610-820-6597 or email retailwatch@mcall.com. Retail Watch appears every Sunday.

mc-rw-paolos-1125-20121124