Retiring Cutillo Couple Looks for New Restaurant Operator
SANATOGA PA – John and Mary Cutillo had hoped to assemble family members, friends, and a selected group of patrons for a special dinner later this month inside Cutillo’s Restaurant, 2688 E. High St. It likely would have been an informal occasion, filled with laughter, poignant memories and, of course, excellent cuisine. It also would have celebrated an important, long-considered decision.
But as they have with so many events elsewhere, current circumstances interrupted those plans. The Cutillos concluded the dinner wasn’t possible, at least not now. And so, after the restaurant’s final meal was served two weeks earlier than expected, its doors were locked. There are intentions to re-open it – within a year and, with luck, far less – but under new management.
The Cutillos have decided to retire.
“We want to spend more time with the grandkids, that’s the bottom line,” John said Thursday (Jan. 20) during an interview in his office on the restaurant’s second floor. “We were spending too much time at work.”
For the couple, the happy news is that several parties have already expressed interest in picking up where they are leaving off. Cutillo’s multi-star ratings, high reputation, and quality standards are well-known among diners. Potential operators range from seasoned owners already involved in one or more fine dining establishments, to those with culinary experience ready for their next challenge.
“We are looking for someone to lease the restaurant, or to manage the restaurant, who is capable of putting out a good product,” John explained. “We’re looking for the right person or persons to operate the business … someone who’s basically a foodie,” and not someone, he added pointedly, who wants to simply transform the space into a night club. Discussions with prospects have already begun.
The restaurant, once known as The Sanatoga Inn, has operated under the Cutillo name since 1948. Its building has hosted countless receptions, chamber of commerce gatherings, election night political pow-wows, and quiet, romantic dinners. It’s where big business deals were brokered, engagement proposals joyfully accepted, and a wide variety of performers entertained over more than seven decades.
The family has continued to invest in the property too. Most recently it completed an interior redecorating project that opened up more floor space and created better patron sight lines for entertainers, while retaining its floor-to-ceiling window views of nearby wooded areas and Sanatoga Creek.
Has COVID played a role in their decision? Well, yes and no, John indicated. From a business standpoint, despite the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 was an excellent year at Cutillo’s for banquets and catering events, he said with satisfaction. He admits, though, that finding, hiring, and keeping staff members is a continuing concern.
Personnel shortages meant the couple themselves had to spend time on operational details usually handled by other employees. Mary, a chemistry teacher retired from the Perkiomen Valley School District, volunteered to pitch in for about 20 hours a week. She ended up working far more. John, who also has his hand in other businesses, spent less time with them as his hours at the restaurant grew.
Mary developed the habit of visiting tables, introducing herself, and talking with diners to ensure they had what they wanted and needed. That kind of personal rapport, which made patrons feel special while also helping Cutillo’s to improve its service, was lost when “she ended up having to do too many of the other things,” John noted.
Still, he said, “it’s hard for us. It’s very difficult to walk away, because our customers have been so wonderful.” The couple expects to take “the next month or two” to qualify and “talk to the people who have already come forward.” As for the restaurant’s closing, John added, “I think it’s going to be very temporary. It’s just that these things take time.”
The restaurant’s digital sign, standing at the corner of East High Street and South Sanatoga Road, reflects that same belief. “Temporarily Closed,” it tells passing traffic, followed by an upbeat “Hope To See You Soon.”
Exterior photo by The Posts
Interior photos provided by Mary Cutillo