WRITTEN BY VALENTINE J. BRKICH
This past August I was passing through Bridgewater on a Saturday afternoon when I noticed an “OPEN” sign on the new 1810 Tavern restaurant. My wife and I had been anticipating the opening ever since the previous restaurant closed three years earlier, and so we decided to pop in and check it out.
That day, I just happened to be wearing an RMU T-shirt, which caught the attention of the restaurant’s manager, Gina M. Nocito. It turns out that Nocito is an RMU alum, having earned a degree in communications in 2001 and her MBA in 2008. In fact, her father, Joseph N. Nocito ‘70, is also an alumnus, and former Chairman of RMU’s Board of Trustees. Gina and her husband, Jeffrey Hutton, have given new life to this 200-year-old building in what was once a thriving canal town along the Beaver River. With its exposed brick walls, copper ceilings, white-pine flooring, and cozy out-back seating area, the restaurant has already established itself as one of the area’s premier locales for fine seafood and other delectable dishes.
In your opinion, what makes 1810 Tavern special?
Our concept of writing the menus weekly, for one. Also, our chefs really are amazing. The building itself is very welcoming, and it is a place that has become a regular spot for so many. The weekends, especially, are so much fun. All of our regulars are there, and it’s always great to see the new faces. We have a great staff, and we consider them as family. We wanted to build a family-oriented bar/restaurant, and that’s exactly what we did.
The building itself is so charming. Can you tell me anything about its history?
The building is 200 years old and has been home to a variety of things over the years. It has housed a hospital, a funeral home, and a boarding house for immigrant railroad workers, a boarding house for single mothers, a boarding house for the general public, a coffee shop, two restaurants, and now, 1810 Tavern.
What’s your favorite dish that 1810 serves?
There’s really not one particular dish that I’d call my favorite—they are all amazing! Chef Russell and Chef Phil really wow our guests every day. We write our lunch and dinner menus on a weekly basis and make changes to our tapas menu weekly. We also make daily changes to our Chef’s Features section of our tapas menu, which helps keep things fresh. We are known for our crab cakes, lobster mac-and-cheese, mussels, and weekly menu items. We are a seafood-driven restaurant, but not seafood exclusive, and we buy many of our ingredients locally.
So how did the idea for the 1810 Tavern come about?
Jeffrey has always dreamed of operating his own restaurant, and I had always had it in the back of my mind. We have both worked in the restaurant business for a large portion of our lives and have the passion and knowledge for it. My first degree was in hotel/restaurant management, and I had my first position as a manger in the business at 17. Jeffrey has been working as a manager/general manager of restaurants for years and has had success in every business he’s been involved with. We had a vision from the first time we saw the location, and we knew we had a lot of hard work ahead of us to make that vision a reality.
What were the biggest challenges in getting the restaurant up and running?
The three months of cleaning, painting, small renovations, exterior work, and planning. We spent many hours putting all the elbow grease we had into making the existing space look the way it does today. The day we spent shoveling in two tons of sand was probably the hardest day, other than the day when we moved every piece of furniture from the downstairs to the upstairs on our very old and narrow staircase.
How have your RMU degrees helped you through this process?
Without the communications and business knowledge that I gained from RMU, I would only have my experience. Our interview process was designed based on the knowledge from my MBA. So many aspects of my RMU experience have assisted us in day-to-day operations.
What did you like best about RMU?
My first degree at RMU was my undergraduate degree in communications, and I loved everything about it. The knowledge I gained has been very useful in everything that I have done since graduation. The professors in the program were amazing and very helpful, and I met many great people while I was there. In the MBA program I gained an abundance of knowledge, which has successfully assisted me in the operation of my business endeavors. I actually designed my interview packets based on information I learned in my Organizational Behavior Theory class.
I have recommended RMU to countless individuals over the years. It is a great university with a credible reputation. It’s respected in Pittsburgh and beyond, and it’s a place that can help you accomplish your dreams. The professors are amazing and are always available if you need help. The community within Robert Morris has such an abundance of wonderful people, and the small class sizes help make you a name, not just a number. And of course, the campus is gorgeous!
Has anyone ever changed your life?
Everyone I met at Robert Morris changed my life—the professors, my friends, and the alumni I have met over the years. I don’t think I would have developed the confidence that I have if it was not for some of my experiences there.
But if I had to pick one person, I’d have to say my father. He taught me to be the person that I am today, and that no matter what obstacles life presents, I should never give up on my dreams. He believed in me and has been the role model for me in all of my business endeavors. I strive to be like him, not only in business but as a person as well. I wish everyone could have just one chance to sit down and talk to him, to hear his story and see the amazing man he became by never giving up and doing everything that needed to become the success he is. He is my hero.
Have you changed anyone’s life because of what you experienced and learned at RMU?
I think that my experiences and knowledge from RMU have influenced many people’s lives. My knowledge has helped me in the way I operate businesses, which has directly affected those who have worked for me and with me.
How is it working with your husband?
I absolutely love working side-by-side with Jeffrey. We are an amazing team and work so well together. Our visions are the same, and we have worked together to build this dream. Our guests love the fact that we are not only there operating the restaurant, but we are serving and bartending daily as well. We have so much fun on a daily basis. I could not imagine doing this with anyone else besides Jeffrey. He is such an amazing individual who has such an abundance of passion and knowledge for this business. I am thankful everyday that we have the opportunity to do this together.
What have you learned about the restaurant biz in the short time you’ve been open
I used to own tanning salons, but the restaurant/bar business is a whole new world. The days are very long at times, but at the end of every night, Jeffrey and I look at each other and are so happy about what we have created. We’re so thankful for the amazing guests who have become like family to us and who help us to stay focused on why we are there. The guests are the backbone of your establishment, and ours are fabulous. They’ve really become our family. You can have great food, drinks and entertainment, but if you don’t value the support and feedback from your guests, then you will not succeed.