VFW Post 764 holds Italian night dinner membership drive
A great dinner out doesn’t have to break the bank. At VFW Post 764 in McMurray, award-winning chef Peter Locante takes to the kitchen every Monday night to whip up delicious Italian dishes for a fraction of what most restaurants would charge. Add to that the friendly atmosphere and inexpensive drinks, and you’ve got a great night out.
“Italian Night” takes place from 5-8 p.m. Mondays at the Post, located on Valley Brook Road. While the dinner is normally open to Post 764 members only, the general public is invited to try Chef Locante’s cuisine throughout the month of May and get a feel for what Post 764 has to offer during its membership drive for regular and social members.
According to Commander “Scottie” Huenefeld, Post 764 has 1,600 current members and is one of only a dozen Memorial Halls in the country, honoring former vets on its Walls of Valor and inside the WWII Room.
In addition to a pleasant environment and camaraderie amongst members, VFW Post 764 offers special dinners every night but Sunday, monthly dances, pool tournaments and karaoke nights, and an upstairs ballroom that seats 25-250 guests that members can rent for private parties, weddings and more.
While Locante, a native of Brentwood, is not a member of Post 764, he is a veteran of the United States Army. He was asked to take over Italian Night by Brentwood High School classmate and Post 764 member Dick “Shakes” Jeffers of Venetia.
“Under normal circumstances, we couldn’t afford to have a chef of Pete’s caliber, but he’s a vet who wants to give back to his friends and military family,” said Jeffers.
Locante became a certified executive chef in 1974 and spent the better part of the past 50 years in the kitchen, starting out as the head chef at his family’s restaurant by the same name. Locante’s Restaurant operated on West Liberty Avenue for more than 30 years. After its closing in 1976, Locante took an executive chef position with Oglebay Resort’s Wilson Lodge in Wheeling, W.Va. In 1980, he moved back to Pittsburgh to serve as executive chef at Marriott’s Westinghouse Headquarters before stepping away from full-time work in the kitchen to work as a chef and sales representative, first for Norcic Fisheries then Parkway Food Service. In 1999, Locante became an instructor at the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts until its closing last year. He was certified as a Food Management Professional in 2005.
Locante’s was inducted into the American Academy of Chefs in 2006. He was named Chef of the Year by ACF’s Pittsburgh Chapter in 2006 and was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 by ACF’s Pittsburgh Chapter.
Locante, who cooks everything from scratch, has a very varied background in food, but his specialities include Italian and seafood dishes. “So far, my food has been very well received at the VFW, and it makes me feel good to be able to provide this to fellow vets and their friends and family,” he said.
Each Monday night, Locante dons his chef’s jacket and apron to create Italian specialties such as sauted chicken with mushroom sauce, pasta with tomato cream sauce, baked haddock with tomato cream sauce and lasagna rolls, among others. The menu changes weekly, but there are always four entrees to choose from. The sit down dinner is priced at just $8 and includes a side salad with choice of dressing and fresh Italian bread.
Locante has been cooking at the Post for a little over a month and so far has received rave reviews.
Jan Dellovade of Peters chose baked haddock with a side of pasta. Both, she said, were “excellent.”
Retired Col. Donald Plants, who has dined at many top-notch restaurants over the years, said, “This is some of the finest Italian food I’ve ever eaten. They’d pack the place every night if Pete was cooking.”
“I had the lasagna with cream sauce and it was the best lasagna I’ve had out,” said Jackie Weinhold of Peters, whose late husband owned Freddie’s Restaurant. “He cooks with fresh basil. I love that.”
Weinhold’s daughter, Dr. Heidi Weinhold, concurred, adding, “It’s a great service for veterans who may be alone. They can come here and get a home-cooked meal and great service.”
“What makes this so great is you can come here and get an excellent dinner and drinks for less than half the cost of what you would pay at a nice restaurant. Dinner for two with drinks for around $25 ... you can’t beat that,” said Jeffers. He added, “Stop by on Monday nights or call in for take-out and try Pete’s wonderful food during our open house the entire month of May. Visit the Walls of Valor and the WWII Room. Just stop by and see the place. It’s fantastic. You won’t be disappointed.”
“Because of the ambulance revenue, we can have this outstanding facility,” said Jeffers, adding that a major kitchen renovation/expansion is currently in the planning stages.
To learn more about VFW Post 764 and the benefits of becoming a member, visit www.vfw764.org or stop by the Post at 460 Valley Brook Road, McMurray. To order take-out, call 724-941-2005.