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Panza's Restaurant in Stillwater eyes 'crown jewel' upgrade

Panza's Restaurant in Stillwater eyes 'crown jewel' upgrade

80-year-old family business seeks to add boutique hotel, second-floor banquet space
Panza's Restaurant in Stillwater eyes 'crown jewel' upgrade
A proposed revitalization of Panza's Restaurant would include a second-floor banquet room with scenic views of Saratoga Lake.
Photographer: JAKE LAHUT/GAZETTE REPORTER

STILLWATER — Panza's Restaurant is proposing a complete overhaul to its catering business with a rebuild that would add a boutique hotel and a second-floor catering business, pending approval from the town. 

Owner Tony Panza, who inherited the restaurant founded by his great-grandmother and grandmother in 1938, said the preliminary plan is to upgrade the catering business with a new "Amalfi Coast" aesthetic that would more prominently feature the view of Saratoga Lake, increase parking and draw more events. 

"Our building is old. It's tired, and we are not as competitive as we were 15 or 20 years ago in the catering business," Panza said Wednesday. 

Discussing the plans before opening for dinner, Panza said the current building is too dark and closed off, under utilizing its panoramic view of Saratoga Lake. By razing the closed-off catering space in the back, Panza said he plans to add a second floor to the new building, with a terrace and full windows overlooking the lake. 

The building plans are still working their way through the approval process by the town of Stillwater, as engineers continue traffic studies and other research into the project's potential impacts. Uncertainty about the town's approval timeframe also makes it hard to estimate the total cost of the project, Panza said.

The last major renovation to the restaurant was in the 1980s, before full water and sewer infrastructure reached the Route 9N establishment, Panza said.

Back then, Panza said, he was able to employ a staff of approximately 50. But business has slowed during the past 15 years, and current payroll is 30. 

Panza said he hopes to add about half a dozen hotel workers. Attracting more customers with a more picturesque and boutique experience, he anticipates bringing employment levels back to about 50. 

Pending town approval, which requires a public hearing on the proposal, Panza said he plans to remain open at least through New Year's Eve. Should all the pieces come together, Panza envisions a whole new chapter for the family-owned restaurant. 

"It would be the crown jewel of Stillwater," Panza said.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Jake Lahut at [email protected] or @JakeLahut on Twitter.

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