When John P. O’Brien bought the former St. Bernadette’s Church on Locust Street in Masury seven years ago, he had a specific business purpose in mind. But, he ended up selling that business interest, and the church became a playground where he would host parties, play music and store equipment for his varied hobbies.
It’s time to turn the place back over for public use, O’Brien said.
The Ferrara family is developing the lower level as a restaurant, and O’Brien would like to open the former sanctuary as a banquet and event center.
Dom Ferrara has announced the opening of Ferrara’s at the Abbey for takeout from noon to 9 p.m. Dec. 17. Normal hours will be 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 9 p.m. Saturday. Call 330-619-5278 to place orders.
Ferrara’s at the Abbey will sell Neapolitan-style pizza, which he defined as a thin crust pie with fresh mozzarella, basil and San Marzano tomatoes.
“We always called it a New York thin, but we want to do a different take on it,” Dom Ferrara said.
The eatery also will serve other types of pizza, calzones, sandwiches and soups, many of which were on the menu at Ferrara’s A Taste of Italy, the restaurant his parents, Dave and Donna Ferrara, operated in Sharon for many years. Dave Ferrara is helping out and eventually wants to bring back the gluten-free items his restaurant was known for.
Dom Ferrara learned the restaurant business from his parents, starting when they opened a pizza shop and convenience store in Hubbard Township in 1997. He cooked, he hired staff, he did payroll – whatever needed done.
“I’ve always been passionate about food and what we had, what my dad started back in ’97,” Dom Ferrara said. “He’s still passionate.”
“Family and food,” Dave Ferrara agreed.
Ferrara’s A Taste of Italy had to close because of family health issues, not because of a downturn in quality or lack of customers, and is still well-remembered, O’Brien said.
“They had such a good reputation and good food and everybody talked about it,” he said.
Entrepreneurship is a family trait as Dom Ferrara’s grandfather, Sandy, and Sandy’s brothers, Joe and Sam, built the former Valley View Department Store.
O’Brien said the banquet hall is pretty much ready to go, and he hopes to attract smaller parties and wedding receptions and host entertainment events that could take advantage of having the Ferraras in the basement. He doesn’t have a liquor license and has a few other details to work out.
The room has a large open area, a raised area where the altar was that is used as a stage, a bar, and is decorated in a rock ‘n’ roll-hunting-sports-O’Brien family theme.
O’Brien’s and Dom Ferrara’s families have known each other for years, and the two of them became friends through music. O’Brien plays guitar and Ferrara bangs on the drums. O’Brien would host jam sessions in the church.
“We’d cook on Sundays at band practice, and then it kind of evolved into where it is now,” Dom Ferrara said. “We bought (cooking) equipment. We were just doing it for fun here.”
O’Brien recalled that his grandparents lived in the neighborhood and attended St. Bernadette’s, and the Ferrara family also attended the church.
“Just being affiliated with the building for a long time, it’s almost like a second home,” Dom Ferrara said.
There is no shortage of ideas for future endeavors on the property. O’Brien is mulling use of the undeveloped area behind the church leading to the creek that used to provide water to a distillery, and he also owns the former rectory, the use of which could be tied into events at the church.
Masury is often overlooked, but is easy to get to with Route 62 and 82 nearby and Interstate 80 not far away, O’Brien said.
“People like to come places if there’s someplace to go,” he said. “I think that’s the big picture, having the whole thing together, being able to have weddings, go out there by the creek and landscape it up so people can do pictures there. You can have the party here. There’s a lot of opportunity for this place, as much as it sat for seven years empty.”
Details on the opening of Ferrara’s at the Abbey will be released on its Facebook page.