Big Al’s is big on family, food and fun
by Staff Writer
MOORESVILLE – Big Al’s Pub & Grubberia is a family restaurant.
Frank Conti is the owner. His sister, Laurie, works as a bartender. His brother, Sam, works in the kitchen and his other brother, Joe, runs the Charlotte location. His parents come in to make soups and chat up the customers.
When asked about his family, Frank Conti just sighs.
“We just can’t stay away from each other,” he said.
Frank Conti grew up in the restaurant business in western New York, close to Buffalo. His parents always owned pizza places, so he grew up working in the restaurants and cooking with his grandmother.
“We’ve collectively been making pizza for over 40 years,” said Conti.
He left home in 1985 to move to Myrtle Beach, S.C. On the way, he drove through Charlotte and thought it would be a cool place to live. In 1989, he moved to Charlotte. Conti bar-tended at several restaurants and bars, eventually deciding to open his own place.
The first Big Al’s opened in Charlotte in 1996. The Mooresville location followed in 1998. The Big Al’s in Cornelius is a franchise location and not run by the Conti family. Soon the entire family was living in the Charlotte area and ready to work at the restaurants.
In the Contis’ hometown you have the choice of being a Bills, Steelers or Browns fan. Frank and his brothers chose the Steelers, much to the chagrin of their Bills-loving father. This is evident in the decor of the restaurant and the clientele on NFL Sundays.
“We used to have Steeler fans tailgating in our parking lot waiting for us to open,” said Laurie Conti. “So now we serve breakfast and just invite them on in!”
Breakfast is served Saturday and Sunday mornings, beginning at 7 a.m. It includes eggs, breakfast burritos, French toast and pancakes.
The wings are also something special and along with pizza are best sellers on the menu.
“We learned how to make wings from The Anchor Bar,” said Laurie Conti. The Anchor Bar in Buffalo is famous for being the first restaurant to ever serve Buffalo wings. The wings are sublime, perfectly crispy with just enough sweet and heat.
“We learned from the best and you can taste it!” she added.
The name of the restaurant comes from family and creativity. The Big Al’s is for his eldest daughter Alexandria, currently a student at Eastern Carolina University, and the grubberia is a cross between pizzeria and grub.
“Everyone hated that grubberia part,” said Frank Conti with a small smile. “But I loved it.”
The menu is filled with Al puns, such as the AL-Zones for calzones or the It-AL-ian Burrito.
Even at 11 a.m., the restaurant is filled with regular customers playing electronic poker or having a long-neck brew. It is hard to tell the workers from the customers as they jostle and rib each other in a casual way.
Regular customer Georgia Theriot moved to Mooresville a year ago and immediately found a home at the restaurant.
“The food is really, really good,” said Theriot. “Plus everyone is so friendly. I just love coming here.”
Frank Conti looks over his restaurant and gives a shrug.
“I’ve been doing it forever and it’s really all I know how to do,” he said, smiling. “But boy, is it ever fun.”
Big Al’s Pub & Grubberia
631 Brawley School Road #401, Mooresville