When Scott Nathanson made the unexpected announcement that he planned to close Collinwood’s neighborhood Italian restaurant, Scotti’s, he never could have imagined the reaction he got.
Scott NathansonNathanson says his Facebook post reached more than 14,000 people and sparked a heartfelt response. “I couldn’t believe it—people were sending money and love letters,” shares Nathanson. “People who have no kitchen skills were offering to come in and help to do whatever they could do to help me stay open.”
It had already been an “emotional” few weeks, with Nathanson making the difficult decision to close his business of 20 years due to loss of business and staffing changes. He attributed the loss of business to the East 185th Street exit off I-90 having been closed since April 2018. “Since that freeway closed, it instantly cut my business down almost in half,” Nathanson says. “I had gone six months without a paycheck and was bleeding money. I could only do that for so long.”
A Mayfield Heights native and former musician, Nathanson honed his chops working at local restaurants like Shujiro, Café Sausalito, and Pizzazz before opening Scotti’s. “I’d worked in restaurants my whole life and had picked up a lot of skills being in a lot of different places,” he says. “When my music career started winding down, I decided that it was time for me to do something else with my life.”
Nathanson says someone “dared” him to open Scotti’s in Collinwood, and the rest was history. And with one taste of Scotti’s signature veal parmesan, pizza, or calzones, it’s not hard to see why locals came out to support him en masse. Nathanson says the secret sauce for these popular dishes is, well, the sauce: “If you have good sauce, you can make good pasta and pizza. It all boils down to the sauce.”
After Nathanson made his closing announcement on Facebook, the restaurant got “money bombed” and did record numbers. (According to Nathanson, Scotti’s “did a month’s worth of business in two weeks,” which helped him catch up on bills, payroll, and taxes owed and hire some new staff. Then, when the freeway exit reopened ahead of schedule, Nathanson decided to give his business another go.
“I had to send up a flare because I felt like I was in trouble, and that’s what I did,” says Nathanson of his sudden announcement. “People saw it, came in, and rescued me. I feel blessed. We’re not out of the woods yet, but I’m optimistic about the future.”
Nathanson, who resides and raised his kids in Collinwood, attributes the outpouring to his restaurant’s resilience through multiple generations. “In 20 years, you go through a generation of people,” says Nathanson. “People love this neighborhood, and they want to continue to see it grow and be successful. It’s where they grew up—it’s their place as much as mine.”