A longtime restaurant owner is bringing an Italian dining experience to the former Whistle Stop.
Vinnie Castiglia, the owner of Original Italian Pizza in Millheim and Turbotville, plans to open a sit-down restaurant at the former train-station-turned-eatery. Called Royal Garden Italian Restaurant, the new place, located at 104 E. Wilson St. in Centre Hall, will feature a more formal twist on OIP’s fare.
Castiglia said he’s targeting to open the first week of February.
“I’m going to try my best to give them something different,” said Castiglia, who started OIP more than two decades ago. “I know when (former owner) Marcia (Gemperle) had it, everyone liked the place. I’m trying to do the same, but with Italian food.”
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Castiglia said his brother is coming from Italy to help with the new restaurant. Some menu items, he said, will be linguine with clams, seafood dishes and pasta primavera.
“We’re trying to come up with some basics from Italy,” he said.
Marcia and Ed Gemperle closed the Whistle Stop’s doors near the end of September. Castiglia said he expressed interest in the building the next day.
“I wasted no time,” he said. “I always liked the location.”
Castiglia said while he plans to update the interior, he also wants to hew to the heritage of the historic building, which was built near the end of the 19th century.
He also plans to maintain the quality of service area residents were accustomed to with the Whistle Stop, he said.
“I’m very excited to open up, and I’m hoping I can give Centre Hall something different,” he said. “I promise, when I go to work in that place, I’ll go work with my heart.”
Castiglia said the restaurant’s hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays, excluding Monday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant will be closed on Mondays.