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Green Arch honors its past, adds modern touches

Former Green Arch Restaurant owner John Michael Discenza, left, stands with new owners Matt Petrella and his sister Shannon Petrella on Friday outside their Italian restaurant on Elm Street in Cortland.

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Former Green Arch Restaurant owner John Michael Discenza, left, stands with new owners Matt Petrella and his sister Shannon Petrella on Friday outside their Italian restaurant on Elm Street in Cortland.

Shannon Petrella remembers vividly every detail of when she first ate dinner at Green Arch Restaurant, at 107 Elm St.

Where she sat; the people around her; the resonating smell of the Discenza family’s sauce traveling through the building; it is all still clear to her as if it happened that morning.

“Everyone you talk to remembers their first time here,” Petrella said.

That is due to the restaurant’s popular food and rich history of people like Jazz musician Louie Armstrong previously performing there. It was also reportedly one of the first restaurants in New York to have a commercial liquor license after prohibition ended in 1933 — the same year Francesca Discenza started the Green Arch, later to be passed on to her son John and then his son John Michael.

And now, the restaurants’ rich history and recipes belong to Petrella and her brother Matt.

The Discenza family and Petrella family have been close friends for years, said Shannon Petrella, and a few years ago John Michael Discenza began having conversations with her brother about him taking over the Green Arch.

“John is 65 now and wants to enjoy his retirement,” Petrella said. “He enjoys golfing and his first grandchild just came.”
Discenza closed the business around Memorial Day, but soon after, a deal was made official for Shannon and Matt Petrella to take it over.

“I’m humbled he (John Michael) entrusted me with his food and recipes,” Shannon Petrella said.

Taking over the business has been very emotional, according to Matt Petrella, because it means a lot to him and his sister to be able to carry on the restaurant’s legacy.

“We feel fortunate to be the chosen ones to continue the restaurant’s amazing story,” Matt Petrella said.

Shannon Petrella said she is not touching a thing in the building, and people can rest assured the famous sauce will remain the same, along with the Green Arch’s signature drink, the Old Fashioned.

The menu is staying the same, but Shannon Petrella said she is using her years of experience working in restaurants to add a few twists to it, as well.

However, there have been a few needed upgrades made to the building, including new equipment in the kitchen and a new ordering and cash-out system, which allows credit cards to be accepted at the Green Arch for the first time, according to Shannon Petrella.

She said another first for the business is a male server has been hired for the first time in the history of the Green Arch.

“We’re being respectful of what John has done and not make him feel like he has done something wrong,” Matt Petrella said.

Owning a small business is nothing new for the Petrella family, as Matt Petrella runs Petrella Bros. Auto Body, at 3812 Luker Road in Cortlandville, along with various other properties, and his brother Rob Petrella owns Brix Pubaria, at 60 Main St., Cortland.

Matt Petrella said his brother has been a great confidant in helping to get the Green Arch going.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Matt Petrella said about reopening the restaurant.

He and his sister held a soft opening Wednesday and then officially opened to the public Thursday.

“Everything has gone great,” Shannon Petrella said. “There has been a lot of happy people.”

Matt Petrella said he has people calling him to thank him for keeping the Green Arch going and saying they are happy their kids can grow up going there, creating their own memories.

The Green Arch is only open from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, but Shannon Petrella said she hopes to extend the schedule with time.

John Michael Discenza could not be reached for comment before press time.