"I'm here for 14 hours some days," she added. "I had an idea it was going to be a lot of work, but I didn't know how much. And actually I love it. It is a tremendous challenge.
"I love the interaction with the people. We know 75 percent of them."
Her husband, an IT specialist with Wells Fargo, comes in every day for lunch.
Niki really has the restaurant business in her blood. Her parents ran Paterno's Little Italian Seafood Inn in South Charleston in the 1970s. When Mary Jo became pregnant with Niki, they decided to sell it. At the time Mary Jo was doing all of the cooking for the restaurant.
Niki said her dad has talked about opening a new restaurant for years. This time around, Mary Jo isn't cooking. The family hired executive chef Brent Pauley and sous chef Michael Aiello, both most recently from Edgewood Country Club, along with sous chef Amie Dodson, formerly of The Barge.
The menu includes family favorite recipes such as Mary Jo's lasagna, meatballs, Bolognese and alfredo sauces, along with new dishes developed by the chefs under the approving taste-tests of the family. It still is being revised and already there are plans to expand it.
See what the Daily Mail Food Guy, Steven Keith, has to say about Paterno's in the Park: http://www.dailymail.com/foodandliving/201211270164
The restaurant's unique location as part of the ballpark means the menu will change when the Appalachian Power is in town playing. The menu will be more casual — think sandwiches — on those nights. As weather warms up, the restaurant's seating capacity of 80 will grow by another 30 seats in the outdoor deck area.
Andy, who works full time as president of Huntington Banks in Charleston, looks at the restaurant as a legacy.
"It's something for the kids," he said.
Paterno's is open for lunch only on Mondays, for lunch and dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays and is closed on Sundays.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.