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Russo’s Return

Amsterdam restaurant reopens after flood

November 20, 2011
By MIKE ZUMMO , The Leader Herald

AMSTERDAM - Across the street, flood-damaged Guy Park Manor is undergoing reconstruction, showing signs this city is recovering from the devastating flooding brought on by Tropical Storm Irene on Aug. 28.

Inside Russo's Grill, it's business as usual, which has only been the case since Nov. 3, when the restaurant reopened after being shut down for 67 days.

After two months of reconstruction, which involved replacing all the floors and carpeting, the plumbing and electrical in the 110-year-old building, owner Mike Russo said even though there are some minor changes, "it's still the same Russo's, but just a little different."

Article Photos

Russo’s Grill is shown in Amsterdam on Wednesday.

The Leader-Herald/Mike Zummo

The day of the storm

The power went out at Russo's about 3 p.m. Aug. 28, and restaurant staff was watching the water as it was rising out of the Mohawk River. About 11 hours later, Russo got a call telling him the same waters that had ripped away a corner of Guy Park Manor had come across the street to the restaurant.

When it peaked, Russo said the water was about up to the windows of the customer entrance on the side of the building, about 3 feet deep.

By that time, most of the area had been evacuated.

"We were mostly in shock," Russo said. "We didn't know what to expect."

Surveying the damage

Russo said he had an idea of what to expect when he and members of his family were finally able to enter the restaurant. He said everything inside was tipped over and pots and pans were floating around.

"Anything that could float was floating in 2 to 3 feet of mud," he said.

The water also got into the kitchen, where it went through the stoves, damaged steam tables and wiped out the pilots on most of the kitchen equipment.

"It was devastating," Russo said, "but I knew what I had to do."

Russo said 10 to 12 Dumpsters full of debris were filled and hauled away before reconstruction started.


Russo, who took over the restaurant three years ago from his uncle, Vince, said there was no doubt in his mind the restaurant was going to reopen. It did, however, turn into a larger project than he anticipated.

"The good thing is that we were able to put in new plumbing and electrical," he said. "We tore everything out and rebuilt it.

He kept the look similar, with the same lamps hanging from the ceiling, giving out the same intimate dim lighting. Most of the bar area was saved. The main difference is that the kitchen has been moved to the back of the building. Before, it was on the side.

He said his contractor, Versatile Home Improvement, worked day and night to get the restaurant work completed so it could reopen by the beginning of November, a goal Russo set from the beginning.

"People were telling me I have one of he best contractors," he said.

The restaurant also has additional dining capacity. Three extra booths that seat a family of four are in a secluded section broken up from the main dining room by a wall that goes about three-quarters of the way up to the ceiling.

Russo calls it "The Flood Room."

In addition to the three new booths, there are several photos along the wall showing the city's flooding and the aftermath.

Community response

Russo never told anyone when the restaurant would reopen, but he said there was a "great response" once it did open Nov. 3.

"We finished working at 3 and opened at 3:30," Russo said. "As soon as the lights went on, people were piling into the restaurant."

He said during the rebuilding, some customers were concerned they would update the restaurant so much that it took away the atmosphere, but the booths were built to match what was there before.

The inside might be new, but Russo, a third-generation owner, wanted to keep the restaurant as close as possible to the restaurant his grandfather had opened.

Mike Zummo is the business editor. He can be reached at



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