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New Diner Honors City’s Industrial Past

May 24, 2009
By Dennis Phillips,
Al Greco, Malleable Iron Grill owner, moves around the kitchen of his new diner like a running back juking past a linebacker or a conductor leading a finely tuned orchestra. It just looks natural and instinctual. However, as Greco dances around the grill like Gene Kelly doing a tap dance or Fred Astaire waltzing with Ginger Rogers, he says ‘‘I’ve never worked in a kitchen before.’’ The new diner owner has spent most of his life working as a historian, outdoors as a recreational educator in the Adirondack Mountains or in Alaska. Even though the new restaurateur has never worked in a kitchen before, his business partner and wife, Randee, has several years experience from working in the kitchen to waiting tables, and is teaching the ins-and-outs of the business to Greco. ‘‘We had wanted to do it for a while,’’ Greco said. ‘‘When the opportunity came up to buy, we knew the old place made money here, so why not. It’s a start and so far, so good.’’ Greco said he wants the diner, which opened April 6, to be known for serving good food at an inexpensive price. Along with the obvious business motto to encourage customers, Greco also wants to be known for paying homage to what was once the backbone of Jamestown — the manufacturing industry. Jamestown Malleable Iron Co. was founded in 1922 located on Allen Street Extension and was a pioneer in iron casting production. So much so that Henry Ford asked the company to make iron castings for Ford Motor Company. At the heart of the industry were the hard working foundry men, performing in extreme conditions that forged the blue collar pride that made Jamestown known for its industrial products. So with Greco’s background in history, he decided to pay tribute to the manufacturing industry that once dominated the landscape of Jamestown by calling the diner the Malleable Iron Grill after the historic factory. ‘‘The industry in Jamestown affected and molded the people who live here. They took pride in their jobs. This is a blue collar town at heart and this is a diner. It’s a good mix,’’ he said. ‘‘We have had people that worked there come in and tell stories. It’s great.’’ Greco said he wants his place to also be known for its menu, with a mixture of traditional meals found along the back roads of several diners throughout the U.S. The new chef takes meals he has ate at other diners throughout his travels from Utah in the west to Cajun Country in the south and added them to his own menu. ‘‘We are a diner, so we offer bacon and eggs, but we also offer other meals no one else does,’’ he said. ‘‘The things we serve aren’t original. There just modified from something I’ve had somewhere else.’’ Greco said his experiences eating at diners is why he wanted to open his own, so others could have their own stories to tell. ‘‘I once walked into a diner in Wyoming. It was a diner, slash grocery store, slash gas station, slash church. There were only seven people that lived in this town and they were all at the diner,’’ he said. ‘‘I went in with my dog, and they didn’t care about it being in there, and sat down and (talked) with them. It was a great meal.’’ The best part of owning a diner, Greco said, is the independence. ‘‘I can’t work at a desk, I need to move around and be free,’’ he said. ‘‘I love the idea of creating something new. I never worked in a kitchen before, but I love being in the back around the grill.’’ Greco said he also likes his new career because he gets to meet a lot of new people, especially during the night time shift the restaurant has on the weekends when the diner is open from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. ‘‘The diversity of the people at night is awesome,’’ he said. ‘‘You have a middle class – older couple – who come in after watching a show downtown, mixed with younger adults who just come from having a good time at the local bar and then you have high school kids that have no where else to go and hang out. During the day, you have the working class people. Then at night we have this great mix. It’s fantastic.’’ The Malleable Iron Grill is also open from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. However, starting in June, the restaurant will be open Tuesday through Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The diner is closed on major holidays. The laid back, easy going vibes of the diner is something Greco also relishes as a new owner. ‘‘The cool thing is that it is so laid back. Anyone can come in and talk to anyone, and feel comfortable. It’s just not our place, but it’s everyones. I would like it to feel like a home away from home,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re family run, so everyone who comes in is family.’’

Article Photos

Malleable Iron Grill owner, Al Greco, in the kitchen of his new restaurant located at 824 E. Second St., which offers a unique blend of diner foods from across the U.S. and is also open late on weekends.
P-J photo by Dennis Phillips



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