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The Preserve

Opening Early This Fall! Corner of Spencer and Maltbie

Take an old industrial space in a recovering part of Syracuse (the Inner Harbor); add the history and flavor of “salt;” and sprinkle generously with enthusiasm and the experience of “preserving” a piece of Salt City history – and what do you have?

The old D.R. Casey Company building has been reinvisioned and revamped to become The Preserve, a soon-to-be Syracuse hit!

The Preserve, a soon-to-open (all puns very much intended) Gem of a restaurant, conveniently hidden along the much-traveled Creek Walk!

About seven years ago, owner Doug LaLone recovered one of Syracuse’s landmark eateries, The “little” Gem Diner, a westside icon and Syracuse go-to for Sunday breakfast, late night snacks, and any-time-you’re-hungry great food.

“I’m a westside kid,” says LaLone, “and I remember going to the Gem with my grandfather.”

So after seven years experience in running the diner, LaLone was looking at properties in the Inner Harbor area that were possibilities for another, more upscale dining experience.

“My business partner, Len Montreal, and I were standing there looking at these two old stone walls,” he says of the property, “and thinking we’d have to bulldoze them. Along comes a man, walking down the Creek Walk, and he asked if we knew what the walls were from. He started telling us the history.”

Jessica Kopp-Pensabene, Anthony LaLone, Tammy LaLone and Doug LaLone.

The old building represented what remained of the D.R. Casey company, and which had originally been the site of an old salt pump house in the heyday of the Salt City. Plans to knock down the walls, LaLone says, immediately stopped.

LaLone dug into the history of the place, and realized it would not only be an ideal spot —secluded yet close to hundreds of workers and walkers— but that it could recover another bit of Syracuse history. “The Preserve,” signifying the preservation of both food and historic landmarks, became the name for the developing restaurant.

LaLone’s history with the food industry began with the family’s Mama Nancy’s truck stop (another famous Syracuse west side location), and included many years with a spot at the State Fair. Eventually, he concentrated his time and talents on the expanded Gem Diner. Advised to update it, he resisted, and went the extra mile to keep it looking as generations (it originally opened in 1950) of Syracusans had come to know and love it.

The Preserve’s stone patio for outdoor dining complete with a big screen TV and a 1970’s Blodgett 2 stack stone pizza oven.

He has brought the same appreciation for the finer points of “preservation” to this new project, literally rebuilding from the ground up. “We went all out with our stone patio for outdoor dining,” he says. “We have an outdoor fireplace, a big screen TV that comes up out of the ground. We even have a 1970’s Blodgett 2 stack stone pizza oven. Most people won’t see it, but when you’re working there and you see that “Blodgett” on the doors, it means something.”

Speaking of pizza – the menu has been carefully crafted, using Gem diners as test subjects. “We’d offer a special to try out out a new recipe. People would tell me – that’s going to be your winner. Then we’d try another special, and that would become the favorite.” LaLone plans to offer a mix of favorite with a local flair: gourmet burgers, 12” pizzas (one with Chicken Riggies), hand-crafted salads, and an array of appetizers like “Philly Nachos. It’s shaved steak over tortilla chips with 3 cheeses.”

Look for The Preserve to open in early fall. “We want everything, from the food, to the custom booths, to how well we train our staff, to be just right,” LaLone explains. “It’s a labor of love.”

Our prediction – you’re going to love The Preserve!

Nancy Roberts