Kelly always loved his hamburgers. Most little kids when asked what treat they would like to have would probably say, “Candy!” or, “Ice cream!” Not Kelly. The only treat he liked more than a burger was two burgers.
Kelly grew up in Allison Park with his parents and eight siblings. While growing up, they were encouraged to spend their days being involved in many activities: school, social, sports and otherwise. Kelly’s special interests lied in athletics and he loved to play ball—football, in particular. He played in elementary, he played in high school and he was a scholarship player at Villanova University. This is where he studied and earned his degree to become a teacher. Anyone who knew Kelly would tell you that he would have made a great teacher. He didn’t just TELL stories, he REINACTED them. His big, expressive brown eyes, bushy, animated brows and trademark beard would have you rolling on the ground clutching your sides with laughter and people would gather around to hear (and watch!) Kelly’s tales unfold. Unfortunately, as he was student teaching in Philadelphia one day, someone pulled a knife on him. After that, he decided that teaching wasn’t for him and returned to Pittsburgh.
The combination of his love for sports and burgers had led him to become familiar with many bars and restaurants, particularly sports bars, in the area. Kelly knew just about everybody in the business: coaches, bartenders, restaurateurs, athletes, other sports and American food aficionado and they all seemed to love him and enjoy having him in their company. Eventually, Kelly himself became a bartender at Hampton Inn and so began his adventures in the food and beverage industry. Being such a warm and larger-than-life personality, he soon developed his own fan base as a lot of people came especially to see him, talk to him and be entertained by this bartender with the booming laughter who knew all the stats to all the sports games happening.
After years of experience learning about managing and running a bar and restaurant, he decided it was finally time to fulfill one of his longtime dreams of building his own tribute to one of the great loves of his life: the hamburger. He bought the already existing neighborhood bar from Rich Tessaro in Bloomfield and went about making it his own with a clear concept in mind: simple, good, honest. It is, in all actuality, a reflection of Kelly himself as a human being. Simple because he didn’t need all the bells and whistles to enjoy his life: spending time with family and good friends, a good meal, a good game and the most amazingly comfortable recliner in the world. Good because helping people was just a matter of fact for him. He changed numerous lives by giving people chances, often times when no one else would. He opened up countless opportunities for students by contributing to their education and supported many organizations in the community. Honest because Kelly is just Kelly. He treated everybody from politicians to plumbers exactly the same way: with respect and a great sense of humor.
Over two decades have passed and Tessaro’s is still going strong. It may have been repainted once or twice but the quality of the food hasn’t changed since Kelly himself was flipping the burgers on the grill back in the early 1980s. Kelly put his heart into building a legacy that today is known as one of Pittsburgh’s culinary landmarks and it is no exaggeration when put this way: Kelly, Pittsburgh misses you and remembers you fondly.
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