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Malvern's West End Inn celebrates 50 years

By SARA KLEIN News Leader Staff Writer Published: November 10, 2016 12:00 AM
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One day, in 1966, Malvern resident Robert Bersaglini returned home to his family after attending an auction and announced, "Well, we now own the West End Inn."

"A beer joint?" his wife, Rosa Maria, exclaimed. "We never been in a beer joint!"

Their lack of experience notwithstanding, Robert and Rosa took a chance on the joint at 8044 Citrus Road. They put the bar back into operation, invited local bands to perform live music, and, in 1972, began offering their customers Rosa's homemade pizza.

Over the years, they turned what had been a building up for auction into a hometown eatery and community meeting place chock-full of memories.

Nearly 10 years ago their first-born daughter, Anna, took the helm after learning the business alongside her parents.

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Now celebrating fifty years in operation, the West End Inn still offers "Mama" Rosa's original pizza and cheerful chit-chat at the bar near the front door.

Not everything has remained the same at West End Inn.

In 1975 the business grew to include a second location, owned by Anna's sister, Lucille, in Waynesburg.

The original Malvern business expanded when Anna added an enclosed backyard patio. Long-time customers will know that the bar at the original location was also remodeled.

The menu at West End Inn has also grown with the addition of wings, chicken dinners, subs and burgers, soups, and Anna's favorite, ribs.

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"They fall off the bone," she commented. "I use a spice rub, garlic salt and rosemary. You've got to put in rosemary when you cook beef. I bake them in the oven. And then I have my own barbecue sauce. "

That said, cooking from scratch has not changed during West End Inn's 50 years.

Anna makes most of her own sauces for the chicken wings, including her specialty, the Monterey.

"It just makes you want to keep eating and eating. It's kind of like a mustard base, but it's sweet," she explained.

In the summer she adds her vegetable soup to West End's menu.

"I take everything from the garden. We have a huge garden," she said.

West End's garden, which is located next to the restaurant's large patio, also provides many of the spices used in Anna's made-from-scratch pizza, which also has not changed during the business's history.

"My sister in law, Julie, still makes the dough. She started after my mom quit. We weigh it out, and then you let it raise for a time, and then you roll it out and put it in a pan, and then you got to go around it to make that rim," she explained.

Anna then uses the same base recipe that her mom developed to top the pizzas, which features provolone cheese, a top secret homemade sauce, and "there's some spices that I won't say," said Anna.

It takes only a quick chat with Anna to see that cooking has been one of her favorite aspects of owning West End Inn. But the people who eat her cooking have made her happiest.

"I just love to be around people, and I've met some of the kindest, nicest people," she commented. "We've had surprise birthday parties for old, old people here. We had a day on Wednesday, everyone would bring in something to eat, and I'd make stuff. At night it's always been a younger crowd. When we started we used to have bands and that, and you couldn't move in here."

In return for the community's years of support, West End Inn has supported a variety of local groups and programs.

The business has raised funds for the Malvern Village Park Board, Veteran Memorial Flag Pole Fund, band boosters, historical society and other groups by hosting car shows and poker runs.

Each year, Anna cooks and hosts a banquet for the Malvern football team at West End. She also devotes time to creating elaborate Halloween and Christmas displays in the restaurant that provide a backdrop for customers as they drink, dine and talk with each other.

"I love this place. I've taken something from everyone I've met. I feel that they've actually given me something," said Anna, who is often invited to join her customers' conversations and laughter.

"People ... get married and come in here to say something to everybody. We've had a wedding actually take place in the patio. There's just a lot of good, nice people," she remarked.

Anna said she is proud of West End Inn's beginnings especially because her parents stuck with the business even though they had no experience.

"We started from my mom and dad...not knowing anything, and just learning as we went," she said.

She is certainly proud of the homemade food.

But she is proudest of the memories, old and new, that she experiences as soon as she walks through West End's front door.

Plaques and photographs on West End Inn's walls memorialize special events, cherished customers and Anna's family.

Anna is happy to tell about the gentleman who, after winning the "Anna's Choice" award at a car show, was moved to tears when she told him that the year of his car was the same as for the car her dad taught her to drive. She will point out West End Inn's memory plaque of long-time customers, and she can show the collages she made using cut-outs of old-time cars with photos of her family members peeking through.

Just glancing around at the tables, the bar and the kitchen brings back many memories for her.

"I can see my mom sitting in the chair knitting, and my dad shooting pool, and just people, just people," she reflected.

"We've had egg fights in here. My brother had a big egg fight one night. We've had buckets of ice fights in here. The guy threw ice at me, he was just joking, so I went back and got a bucket, and before I knew it the ice machine was empty."

What is West End Inn's secret to staying in business for five decades? Why is it operating today? Is it the food? The bar? The bands? The memories?

"Because of Anna," said Donna Cole, who works at the restaurant. "She's just a nice person."

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