Vitale’s of Comstock Park Restaurant and Sports Bar Serves Authentic Italian Food
Augostino Vitale grew up with mouthwatering Italian food. “It was a lot of pasta, sauces, home cooking, all homemade,” he said, adding that the food at home made school lunches pale by comparison.
Vitale’s father Salvatore and his mother Maria moved to Kentwood from Sicily in 1964 to be with family and opened a pizza take-out establishment in Grand Rapids in 1966. Vitale said his father had no background in the restaurant business, noting the pizza take-out on Leonard St. in Grand Rapids “was a whole new venture.” That venture expanded into a full-service Italian restaurant.
The family opened a pizza take-out at 3868 West River Drive in downtown Comstock Park in the mid-1980s, and Vitale worked there summers when he was in high school. “We had the pizza take-out when the White Caps came in down the road,” he said. His father anticipated increased business when the baseball team’s stadium at 4500 West River Dr. opened in 1994 and decided to tear down the small take-out building and build a full-fledged restaurant.
The Comstock Park Vitale’s features a pizza take-out, restaurant and sports bar with big-screen televisions, and a 1500 square foot, four-season patio that can be opened in the summer and has heated floors and is enclosed for the winter. The food on the menus at all the Vitale’s restaurants is the food Vitale grew up with. “It’s all family recipes, all homemade,” he said. Besides pizza and pastas, the menu includes burgers, wraps, sandwiches, subs, burritos, and more.
Vitale grew up in the restaurant business. “Dad would take me to the restaurant on the weekends,” he said. “I was maybe 13, and I would answer the telephone.” Vitale said it was natural for him to eventually own his own restaurant, because “it’s what I know.”
“We’ve done well in Comstock Park,” said Vitale noting that the White Pine Trail connector project by the Comstock Park Downtown Development Authority in 2007 improved the area behind the downtown businesses on the east side of West River Drive. “It looks nicer, it’s cleaned up,” he said, adding that Trail users regularly stop in the restaurant.
Vitale said it’s important as a business owner to be involved in the community where his business is located, and he contributes to events such as fundraisers for the Comstock Park Schools and Relay for Life. Vitale donated funds for the scoreboard at Comstock Park High School gym. He noted it was ironic that he presented one of those giant checks for the scoreboard at a Comstock Park home basketball game when the opposing team just happened to be Forest Hills where he and his wife Keri live and where their children went to school. Vitale said all three of his grown children now work at the Comstock Park restaurant.