Italian cuisine

Ariano offers old-world ambiance and authentic Italian cuisine right in the heart of Media – Delco Times

MEDIA >> Anthony Bellapigna is a born builder, by skill and by nature. He builds and creates award-winning pizzas and other main dishes that attract customers from miles around. He builds strong and lasting relationships with hundreds of acquaintances, friends and clients in his community, as well as with hundreds abroad. And he built Ariano, the old-style Italian restaurant at 114 Olive Street in Media, one brick at a time. He also built his copper tables and room accents, as well as his eye-catching full-service bar, a focal point when someone walks through the front door. Ariano is an enduring heirloom of the Bellapigna family, built to preserve family history and treasured family recipes. , And life

As a young boy, when Bellapigna looked at and tasted his mother Francesca’s cooking, he would say, “Mom, this is so good. One day we should open our own restaurant!

When he was just 13, Bellapigna, who grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and attended Our Lady of Loretto and West Catholic schools, saved money for a plane ticket by cutting grass and delivering newspapers. He had a strong desire to go and meet his grandparents in Italy. One summer, accompanied by an uncle, Bellapigna left for an adventure that would change his life.

“When the plane touched down and I met my grandparents, something woke up inside me. I can’t explain it,” said Bellapigna, who returned to the homeland of family origin countless times since. “Even at that young age, I felt an extreme connection to my roots and my family’s Italian heritage.”

Bellapigna, who also co-owns Fellini’s on State Street, opened Ariano in 2010. Named after the town of his great-grandparents, Ariano Irpino in the Campagna region of Italy, the local Italian restaurant, from its decor to its dishes, is steeped in the history, culture and personality of the Bellapigna famiglia. Bellapigna is present with vigilance when the restaurant is open. He wants to ensure that customers enjoy the same Italian hospitality and cuisine as if they were visiting him at his home, because indeed Ariano is “his second home”, he said.

“I created this restaurant so people could come here as customers, but leave as family,” Bellapigna said earnestly.

Bellapigna and her father, Otino, worked side by side to build the attractively styled restaurant, located in the heart of downtown Media.

“Towne House’s Babe D’Ignazio used to drop by while my dad and I were building Ariano,” Bellapigna fondly recalled. “He used to tell us, ‘take your time and do it right.’ He always encouraged us not to rush and say that all good things take time.

With expertly crafted and crafted woodwork and marble and attention to fine detail, the interior and exterior create a mini trip to the hills of Ariano Irpino. The second floor walls open up for summer nights, to allow for a convenient and memorable experience of dining under the stars. A spiral staircase leads to the third floor, providing a special seating option resembling an Italian villa, for those who desire a more private dining setting.

A mural on the domed ceiling upstairs, painted by artist Ed Scogna, depicts the scene where Otino met his wife Francesca 54 years ago in Ariano Irpino. Although Otino is now retired after decades of working in the upkeep of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, his early childhood was spent earning a living herding sheep in the hills of Ariano Irpino. Throughout the restaurant, photos of Bellapigna’s immediate family and distant relatives tell the intertwined story of his restaurant and his roots. Some of his relatives are on the restaurant staff, including nephew Rocco Mongeli, who is the general manager of Ariano. But it’s the restaurant’s authentic cuisine that really tells his family’s story.

The restaurant offers dozens of its signature pizzas, baked at 850-900 degrees, in the exclusive wood-fired oven that father and son built from Tuscan clay bricks. Pizza varieties include basic selections, such as Melazzo (fresh mozzarella, marinara, and basil) and Carmiela (baked caramelized onions, basil, and shavings of Fontina cheese drizzled with olive oil), as well as tenders gourmet foods, such as the Bellapigna (eggplant, zucchini, roasted peppers sautéed in the oven with galic and pine nuts finished with olive oil and asiago cheese), the Toluca (New York Strip Steak, sliced, topped with guacamole and chorizo ​​in a light chipotle tomato sauce) and DeGrutola (Gorgonzola, goat cheese and fresh mozzarella topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, finished with shaved parmesan).

Many dishes, as well as the restaurant itself, are dedicated to Anthony’s late aunt, Zia Rosa. In fact, many items on the menu are named after people or places important to the Bellapigna family. Although mom Francesca taught Bellapigna how to cook, it was at his uncle’s Fellini restaurant in Springfield that he honed his cooking skills. He was also taken under the wing of Giuseppe Musso, of the Trattoria Giuseppe restaurant in Edgmont, whom he affectionately calls one of his greatest mentors in catering and cooking.

Ariano offers an assortment of delicious appetizers, salads, fish and meat dishes and other entrees. The restaurant is known for its multiple kinds of risotto, as well as other gourmet and authentic signature dishes, including their “pizza bowl” creations.

“Even though our pizzas and other dishes are authentic Italian and superior to many places, it was our risotto that really put us on the map. It’s exceptional,” Bellapigna explained.

Additionally, Ariano offers a full-service bar, offering an extensive selection of imported Italian craft beers on tap and bottled, as well as wines from the Campagna region, fresh fruit cocktails, traditional Italian specialties and other drinks of choice. Bellapigna makes authentic, homemade grappa and limoncello and still uses the wine press he displayed in the upstairs restaurant to make house wine like his ancestors did before him.

“I want everyone who dines here to feel like they’re in Italy,” Bellapigna said. “We take everything to another level here. Even our coffee is imported from Naples. We want our customers to smell, taste and feel Italy here. It’s as old world as it gets. We want people to immediately feel an Italian connection as soon as they walk through our door.

Most of the fresh vegetables used at the restaurant come from Otino’s huge garden which he still cultivates every summer. Anthony’s mother, Francesco, often stops by the restaurant to offer customers treats from her cookie trays.

For dessert, Ariano makes his own Gelato. Bellapigna has spent time in Europe, Italy and Spain, learning the craft of making Gelato with fresh ingredients. Fluent in Spanish and Italian, Bellapigna returns to Italy about twice a year to visit family and attend Gelato conventions. He recently opened the Irpino Gelato bar adjacent to Ariano where patrons come and go all day to indulge. Basically an “adult ice cream parlor,” Bellapigna said customers love indulging in its selection of homemade Gelato in many flavors, including its adults-only liqueur-infused flavors, such as Cafe Borghetti and Almond Biscotti. Gelato (sweet alcohol espresso poured over creamy Almond Gelato), Italian Pisa Liqueur and Vanilla Gelato, and Italian Strega Liqueur and Chocolate Gelato.

Bellapigna is an active member of the Media Business Authority and the newly formed Media Restaurant Association. Earlier this month the restaurant took part in Media Restaurant Week and it will again take part in Summer’s Dining Under The Stars for its sixth year. Ariano has also partnered with Media Theater to promote its new shows and often provides the kitchen for many of the theater’s functions.

In October, Bellapigna hosted a delegation of Italian civil servants and police from Ariano, Italy. He threw a block party to celebrate the occasion after organizing a tour of local law enforcement. Italian police witnessed a demonstration of various local emergency activities including SWAT responses, bomb disposal and emergency vehicle action Courtesy of the Criminal Investigations Division of the DA and the Media Borough Police Department.

Bellapigna and his wife of 15 years, Regina, are local Media residents. He recently imported a 4,000-pound Tuscan clay oven that can bake pies in 90 seconds, which he assembles on a large Ford truck. Although it’s still under construction, Bellapigna hopes to have the truck at the Italian American Heritage Festival at Rose Tree Park on June 4, offering its signature pizzas. In fact, he soon hopes to be offering pizza at many local venues and donating the proceeds to his favorite charities. He’s generous with the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum in Media, donating his proceeds from the recent Media Food Festival, and Ariano is a major sponsor of Saturday night’s Rockin’ With The Troops concert at Neumann University. The April 22 live concert will feature popular alumni bands including The Brooklyn Bridge, The Tokens, The Duprees and The First Ladies of Rock and Soul. Hosted by Fox29 weathercaster Sue Serio with special guest Lou Costello of Cruisin 92.1, the concert will honor all veterans and local businesses that support veterans and veterans’ causes. Tickets are still available by calling 610-359-0832 or visiting

“Anything I can do to honor our veterans, it’s always my privilege and my honor to help,” Bellapigna explained, in a matter-of-fact tone.

To reach Ariano at 114 S. Olive St., Media, call 610-892-6944, visit or like Ariano on Facebook.