Since 1925, Pittsburg County has been a popular destination for classic southern Italian food, thanks to the Italians who came to the area to mine coal but stayed to serve pasta, lamb fries and Choctaw beer.
Pete Prichard opened Pete's Place in 1925, and Dom Giacomo opened The Isle of Capri in 1950, both in tiny Krebs. The two boast more than 140 years combined years in service, but two “newer” eateries, GiaComo's and Roseanna's, have more than 90 years in combined serving the Pittsburg County Italian staples.
Not long after the old Texas Road that helped establish McAlester became a part of the new U.S. 69, Giacomo was the first to build on it with a sleek, modern structure in the style Frank Lloyd Wright. He called it GiaComo's. Guests entered into a lobby equipped with a working water fountain and a ceiling that changes color from red to white to blue, and walls covered either in painted mirrors or plastered rock. An extra dining room was added on the north side of the restaurant, but otherwise, Dom's vision in 1959 remains intact.
“Everything is original,” said Wendell Brewer, a relative who has worked there since he was a child.
GiaComo's was run by Dom's brother Nick. Like his brother, Nick Giacomo started working early in life.
Nick's daughter, Dora Lea Brewer, said her father's first job was as a lamplighter at age 9. Each night, he rode on horseback around Krebs, lighting street lamps, and circling back in the morning to snuff them out. He did that until he turned 12, when he started joining his father in the coal mines.
“People knew him all over,” said Wendell Brewer, Dora Lea's son. “I don't care where we were, people everywhere knew him — Atoka, Durant, Denison — anywhere.
Today GiaComo's is run by Dora Lea and Wendell Brewer with help from Heather Solomon, Nick's great-granddaughter. Wendell Brewer said he's been working in GiaComo's since he was a child.
“I waited my first table when I was 10 years old. I'll never forget it,” he said. “Dom wasn't in here too much, but he'd come by, and everybody knew it when he was here. I was scared to death of that man. He had that flat-top hair cut, big guy. He look over at me and said in that deep voice of his, ‘Get over there, and get an order off that table.' Like I said, I was scared to death of him, so I run over and get me a pencil and pad, only 10 years old, and took their order.”
The menu at GiaComo's is similar to its cousins in Krebs: steak, chicken, lamb fries, meatballs, ravioli and lasagna. Wendell Brewer said the top two sellers are steak and lamb fries.
“We're known for our steaks,” he said. “Every year, we win the award for best steaks in town.”
Brewer said he added, in 1989 or '90, saute-pan items, which none of the other restaurants did at the time. GiaComo's was also first to offer shrimp scampi. Heather, Wendell and Dora Lea also offer classic chateaubriand, chicken Florentine, veal parmigiana and Alfredo with shrimp or a seafood mixture.
Food is served family-style, and no meal is complete without Muenster cheese slices and pepperoncinis, and hot lamb fries.
If you go: GiaComo's, at 19th Street and Comanche in McAlester, is open from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call (918) 423-2662.
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