WTD: Italian fare with Irish flair
Story and photos by Aaron Tanner
Steve Flynn has an Irish heritage, but when he wanted to start a restaurant of his own, he knew that Italian would be a bigger customer draw than Irish food. “We couldn’t make a living selling corned beef and cabbage,” he says.
He was obviously right. He’s been dishing out delicious Italian food – with Irish influences – to locals and tourists alike since 2007 at Stevarinos, his restaurant in a busy shopping center in Scottsboro.
Flynn’s childhood nickname was “Stevarino,” the salutation made popular on Steve Allen’s 1950s variety show. While trying to come up with a name for his eatery, Flynn suggested the name to some friends. “I thought then it sounded corny, but I told my friends, and they loved it,” he says.
Flynn, who grew up in the Queens borough of New York City, fell in love with cooking and worked in the restaurant industry all around the U.S. One of the stops in his culinary career was in Fort Myers, Fla., where he met Kerry Hoefer; the two became friends while working together at a Mexican restaurant chain called Chevys Fresh Mex.
On the side, Flynn sold properties in Florida. He took some of the proceeds from his real estate sales and invested in property in Tennessee. It was there that Flynn got the idea to start his own restaurant. He convinced Hoefer to join him on his new journey.
The two bought an old bar in South Pittsburg, which is just over the state line from Alabama, renovated the property, and opened the first Stevarinos in 2006. “I had a dream and a vision and if it didn’t work, I could still go back to what I was doing,” says Flynn.
Fortunately, the South Pittsburg location did work, and many customers made the drive from northeast Alabama to eat there. Flynn saw the opportunity for a second restaurant in Scottsboro after consulting with the Chamber of Commerce. “Scottsboro was the right fit for us,” Flynn says.
Today, Hoefer operates the South Pittsburg store while Flynn runs the Scottsboro location. Both enjoy working with each other and are hands-on with running their businesses. “If I have to cook, if I have to pour drinks or if I have to wash dishes, I do whatever it takes,” Flynn says.
All the menu items at Stevarinos are homemade and made to order. “I’m not one of those that will substitute quality because I can get a better price on something,” says Flynn. “I’m very picky because I like to put out a stellar product.”
While a few of Stevarinos’ recipes come from Papa Joe’s, a favorite Italian eatery in the Fort Myers area owned by one of Flynn’s friends, most of the creations on the menu are from Flynn himself. Living by the beach inspired him to create a favorite appetizer called beach bread – a toasted hoagie roll topped with homemade bleu cheese dressing, pieces of bacon, tomatoes, fresh garlic and oil and mozzarella. The item is such a hit with customers that it was named one of the state Tourism Department’s “100 Dishes to eat in Alabama Before You Die.”
“We sell a lot of it,” Flynn says.
Another favorite appetizer at Stevarinos is the Irish egg rolls, featuring corned beef and mozzarella cheese cooked into an egg roll and served with Thousand Island dressing for dipping. “It’s almost like a Reuben,” he says. The corned beef is slow cooked and marinated at the restaurant.
One of the recipes brought from Florida is the pizza sauce, used for the restaurant’s New York-style pizza. Flynn makes the dough every day from scratch.
Another dish not to miss is the blackened Cajun pasta, which is mixed with chicken, shrimp, and Andouille sausage and topped with Alfredo sauce, made in-house. Other items on the menu include lasagna, spaghetti, paninis, hoagies, steak, and seafood.
Flynn’s goal is for Stevarinos to stand out among other dining establishments by offering options not found in other restaurants. “We try not to be like the typical restaurant where everyone’s menu food is the same,” he says. “I like having things on there you can’t get everywhere else.”
The restaurant receives a steady stream of repeat business thanks to the delicious menu items and quality customer service. Flynn personally says hello to patrons who walk through his door. “I like for people to leave my place with a smile on their face knowing they were made to feel special,” he says.