Good news, Schenectady: Your beloved steak sandwich — you know, the thin-sliced ribeye, three kinds of cheeses, mushrooms and peppers, all piled generously on a thick roll — will soon be available once more.
The signature steak sandwich of Morrette’s King Steak House, in all its original, tasty glory, is in the process of being sold — along with Morrette’s other recipes, the Morrette’s name and the Morrette’s building at 1126 Erie Blvd. Frank and Kathleen Martin, a Scotia couple who own a used car lot down the road, are in the process of buying the recently closed eatery and want to keep it exactly as Schenectady remembers it.
“We felt like it was such a great landmark and we would love for it to come back for another 60 years,” Kathleen Martin said Monday.
Once the sale is finalized and local approvals obtained, Morrette’s could reopen under the Martins’ ownership by the first week of September. Their proposal to operate the restaurant is on the City Planning Commission agenda for its July 16 meeting.
The Martins would be the third family to own and operate the legendary restaurant. Schenectady native and pro wrestler Tony Morrette opened the restaurant in 1947
after he discovered the Philly-style steak sandwich while traveling. The place quickly became a favorite spot for hungry General Electric and American Locomotive Co. workers, as it was just a quick jaunt from the manufacturing giants on either end of Erie Boulevard.
David and Ralph Pasquariello and Bruce Bielecki, David’s brother-in-law, bought the restaurant in 1973. Micah Pasquariello took over operations when his father, David, died in 2011. In May, Pasquariello announced he and his aunt/business manager, Sandy Bielecki, would retire, though disappointed they weren’t able to keep the place open after sale negotiations fell through.
News of the pending closure prompted so many people to show up for one last meal that the restaurant ran out of food and had to close a day early. Schenectady has now gone 47 days without Morrette’s as a lunch or dinner option, and the Martins are worried that with each passing day, the chances of it reopening will dwindle.
“The key now is to jump on this while we still can because the longer these doors stay closed, the greater the opportunity it is for it to stay closed,” Frank Martin said outside the restaurant Monday over the sound of passing cars and trucks on a heavily traveled Erie Boulevard.
“It just needs a little freshening up,” he said. “We’re going to add some things to the menu, some healthier options, and take some stuff off the menu.”
He quickly added that none of the classics would go — not the chicken parmigiana or mushroom hamburgers, and most certainly not the namesake steak sandwich.
Frank and Kathleen Martin have experience in the food business. They’ve run concession stands for six years at local fairs and festivals — the Altamont Fair, the Saratoga County Fair, the Fonda Fair, Schenectady County SummerNight, Glenville Oktoberfest and Niska-Day, among others.
“Concessions are pretty tough to break into,” Frank Martin said, explaining that longtime vendors always get preference. “This will be much easier because it’s Morrette’s steak sandwiches, and the city of Schenectady knows Morrette’s steak sandwiches. We’re not reinventing the wheel here. We just want to come in and freshen things up a bit.”
Their children, 19-year-old Kathryn and 15-year-old Max, will help out at the restaurant when they can. The Martins also plan to reach out to longtime employees to offer them their jobs back.
The couple is aware of the nostalgia surrounding Morrette’s, and said they want to do their best to honor it.
“All the pictures will remain on the walls,” Kathleen Martin said. “We want to keep things as close as we can to the original. We are going to stick to the same concept: Great meals at great prices. We want to keep the people who loved the place for many, many years, happy.”