LISBON, Ohio – With its new addition, Pondi’s Restaurant and Bar in Lisbon is giving its customers what they have long wanted.
The new space at the restaurant and bar at 8945 state Route 45 was unveiled Aug. 23. It will increase seating capacity by 40 when it opens Labor Day weekend, adds new bathrooms, and nearly triples the size of the once-cramped kitchen.
The addition also includes a totally new concept for the 106-year-old restaurant: Pondi’s Market and Carryout Kitchen.
The market, located along the side of the building on the lower level, sells hand-cut steaks, fresh seafood, ground sirloin mix, and deli items. It offers customers a way to home-cook the same cuts of meat and seafood served in the restaurant.
Co-owners Matt and Jessica Borza and Treg Steves came up with the idea during the height of the pandemic and started construction about a year ago. Borza would not reveal the cost of the addition but noted seating capacity will be raised to 112 at the restaurant, which employs 54.
“The plan was to add a new kitchen and dining room,” Borza said. “We also dreamed of a market.”
The restaurant’s customers had long been asking if they could buy the certified angus beef and fresh seafood to take home and cook, so Borza knew demand existed. When the pandemic hit and folks did more cooking at home, the owners knew the time was right.
Like the restaurant, the market’s watchword is quality.
“We’re not the cheapest on the block,” Borza said. “These are restaurant-quality steaks, cut daily.”
Borza said the concept – a restaurant selling its hand-cut steaks and seafood to customers who will cook them at home – is a first for the Lisbon area and likely the entire Mahoning Valley.
Pondi’s Market also sells the ground sirloin that goes into its burgers, handmade meatballs, and pasta salads. In the future, it will add “chef boxes,” which will include all ingredients for the entrée and side dishes, with preparation instructions.
The market also serves as the takeout area where customers can pick up prepared meals to go without having to walk into the bustling dining room upstairs.
Since it opened, Pondi’s has operated in a converted wood-frame house; in its earliest days, the owners lived upstairs. It has been expanded over the years, but the latest addition nearly doubles it in size.
Steves, who is also the head chef, said the kitchen went from being too small to spacious.
“It’s amazing to go from [a cramped kitchen in] a 106-year-old house to a state of the art facility,” he said. “It’s finally here and it’s working very well. The space gives us the ability to do unique things with our dishes plus handle the volume that we do.”
Not only has the restaurant kitchen been expanded, but a prep kitchen has been added on the lower level, in the space behind the market.
Steves and his staff arrive at the restaurant at 6 o’clock every morning and begin preparing soups, salad dressings, sauces and other items in the prep kitchen, which also has an area where steaks are cut every morning.
Before moving ahead with the expansion project, the Borzas and Steves consulted with Christine Dailey of the Small Business Development Center at Youngstown State University.
Dailey was on hand at the grand opening.
“We looked at the current [level of] business and its structure and put together a business forecast so the bank had good data,” she said. “We also helped them devise a plan to increase personnel and training.”
Dailey was excited to see the finished product.
“It’s a flourishing business for this community,” she said.
Pondi’s Restaurant and Bar, and Pondi’s Market, is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Pictured at top: Treg Steves, Jessica Borza and Matt Borza, co-owners of Pondi’s Restaurant and Bar, stand behind the refrigerated display case at their new market.