Just seven weeks after fire destroyed his original restaurant, Augie Vitiello will re-open in a new location in Ballston Spa. As YNN's Geoff Redick explains, aside from the food, there's one other thing about Augie's that hasn't changed.
BALLSTON SPA, N.Y. -- If you ever ate a meal at Augie's Restaurant on Church Avenue in Ballston Spa, you likely remember the decor. Although Augie's isn't advertised or operated as a sports bar, various sports posters and memorabilia lined every wall in the dining room.
"It's a collection that just keeps growing, as if you had a stamp collection or a coin collection," said Augie Vitiello, the owner. "You look at certain things, or a newspaper clipping, and you say, 'Wow, I remember when that happened. I can specifically remember where I was when that took place.'"
The idea behind the decorations was conversation and nostalgia, not to mention an outlet for Augie's collection of sports items, which include a years long stack of Sports Illustrated magazines and once also counted a signed poster of New York Yankee greats Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle.
But that signed poster and Augie's entire restaurant went up in flames on August 5th. Which made it all the more remarkable that Augie stood inside his own restaurant on Wednesday, a new, long-term temporary location at 17 Low Street in Ballston Spa. It's about a mile north of Augie's former site.
"Everyone just came together to help us out and it gave us that energy to just keep going," said Vitiello.
He had made a promise on August 5th that his restaurant would return, just hours after his first and only building was destroyed. Now, Vitiello admits that wasn't an easy guarantee to make.
"Seven weeks ago, we were scratching our heads, thinking 'What's going to happen to us? Where are we going to end up?'" he said, shaking his head. "And some people say this is quick, but these have been the longest seven weeks of my life."
Augie's new location shares a building with a small church congregation. It's received a new coat of paint, the kitchen is full of food and place settings have been laid out on every table in the dining room.
And the walls, which were white and bare when Vitiello rented the space, are now covered in sports memorabilia again. It's a combination of Vitiello's own items from home, including an extensive collage of his Sports Illustrated magazine covers and numerous items donated from customers and friends.
"They knew the kinds of things we always had on our walls. It's nice," he said.
On Tuesday, the day before re-opening, Vitiello's friend Jerry Crouth brought another sort of gift. The local radio personality donated two small elephant sculptures with trunks and tusks raised in the air. According to a cultural legend once told to Vitiello, an elephant sculpture with its trunks and tusks raised toward a restaurant door will always bring customers in. The "lucky" elephant is thus a prominent feature in the Augie's Restaurant logo.
"I met Augie for the first time when he was painting his first restaurant," Crouth told YNN. "Not only is he a great restaurateur, but he's a wonderful father and he's also very much involved with the baseball team I love, the Mets!"
Customers and friends like Crouth are what keep Vitiello excited about every day at his restaurant and he says he's very eager to re-open Wednesday. Augie's Family Style Italian Restaurant will serve dinners beginning at 4 p.m.