It’s only been a couple months since Pechin’s Firehouse Restaurant in Dunbar Township closed, but Jodi Mascioli and her family of Bullskin Township have missed the appetizing cuisine and delectable desserts.

So, when the owners of Connellsville’s new Zia Maria’s Bakery and Café announced they were holding a soft opening recently, Mascioli was there to get some of the “delicious pastries.”

“We came out to support the family,” said Mascioli, who took home some fruit tarts and pumpkin cheesecake. She also wholeheartedly recommended the hot chocolate from the café. “I’m excited. I hope they are very successful.”

Zia Maria’s is owned by the D’Amico family and is located off of North Pittsburgh Street, next to the family’s Pechin’s Express location. The family also operates Pechin’s grocery store at the Laurel Mall location, and did operate Pechin’s Firehouse Restaurant, which closed in August.

According to owner Amy D’Amico, the “soft” opening was anything but soft as a steady stream of customers came into the business all day. At times, D’Amico admitted it got a little “crazy.”

“The people were so kind and patient with us,” said D’Amico, who added that the soft opening’s purpose was to experience the “bumps” associated with a new restaurant opening and to have employees experience the real day-to-day operations that can’t really be simulated in training.

Most of the bumps, D’Amico explained, were computer related.

Although applying a nostalgic business plan of made-from-scratch items, Zia Maria’s blends that with the latest, state-of-the-art restaurant technology to offer customers a quick and easy ordering process, utilizing kiosk self-ordering stations and handheld employee-ordering computers at the restaurant. Customers can also order from employees working behind the counters or choose to go through the drive-thru.

Eventually, the business will also accept online orders, but that system isn’t quite ready to launch yet, according to D’Amico.

Everything about this new café is locally-driven with all of their sweets made from scratch. In addition, D’Amico is proud that all of the coffee is roasted locally by 19 Coffee in Washington County.

The menu is similar to that of the Firehouse Restaurant, like fresh salads and burgers. So, those who were fans of the Firehouse Restaurant should find something familiar to order, but that they’ve also added things to the menu as well. In addition to the bakery, there is also a dining room and once the warm weather returns, an outdoor patio area for alfresco dining will be available.

The cafe has a number of family portraits displayed prominently in the restaurant, which is named after her mother. In addition, D’Amico said they also consider their customers and their employees as extended family.

Zia Maria’s is located off North Pittsburgh Street next to Pechin’s Express and is open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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