New Zola owners have familiarity with Centre County dining scene

Andrew Hufnagel, left, and his father Robert Hufnagel are the new co-owners of Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar formerly Zola New World Bistro.
Andrew Hufnagel, left, and his father Robert Hufnagel are the new co-owners of Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar formerly Zola New World Bistro. CDT photo

Andrew Hufnagel can’t wait to meet his first customer, take his first order and make his first dish at Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar.

“This has always been my dream,” Hufnagel said. “The re-launch and every day after will be huge for me. Every day will be exciting.”

The new co-owner will have to wait, however, because he and his father, Bob Hufnagel, will make a few tweaks to the restaurant formerly known as Zola New World Bistro. The eatery will likely re-launch between late February and early March.

The largest renovation will be the construction of a wine bar at the restaurant’s entrance. Others renovations will be done to the lighting, floor and paint to give Zola a new look.

“The idea and mission will still be the same, to bring Happy Valley premier fine dining,” Andrew Hufnagel said.

The menu will undergo its own makeover that will be influenced by Andrew Hufnagel’s training and work in seasonal, contemporary cuisine. Zola’s most popular dishes, like the crispy whole red snapper, will still be available.

Andrew Hufnagel, a State College native, earned a bachelor’s degree in Culinary Management at the International Culinary School at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. He also worked at Amada in Philadelphia, which is owned by Iron Chef contestant Jose Garces.

Bob Hufnagel, who is part-owner of State College electronics manufacturer State of the Art, provided the finances for the purchase, but said he wouldn’t have done it if not for his son’s training and experience in the restaurant industry.

“No, I don’t do things like that,” Bob Hufnagel said. “If I had the slightest doubt about his abilities, I wouldn’t do it. I believe in his skills. You’ve missed out in Centre County if you haven’t been to The (Gamble) Mill the last few months to eat.”

The Hufnagels declined to say how much they bought the restaurant for, but part of the deal was to keep former co-owner Dave Fonash on board in a management role for a year to help transition them into running the restaurant. Fonash also plans to work in commercial real estate.

Former co-owner Paul Kendeffy will not work at the restaurant and wants to work in the hospitality industry.

Fonash and Kendeffy, who opened Zola, at 324 W. College Ave., in 2002, also co-own The Gamble Mill, which is listed for sale at $1.2 million.

Their familiarity with Andrew Hufnagel, who has been the executive sous chef at The Gamble Mill, helped finalize the deal.

“It is in great hands with Andrew, and he is very capable of continuing our success and making it his success,” Kendeffy said. “It’s always tough to let go, but Dave and I are looking forward to the next part of our lives.”

“We felt it was the right time with us knowing Andrew at The Mill, and with us knowing they’re intent on keeping the concept the same,” Fonash added. “We did what we wanted to do, which is help progress the dining scene in State College and the county. They’ll do that, too.”