River Rat restaurant in Lake Wylie coming back with new owners

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comApril 25, 2014 

River Rat plans to reopen in May.

— The River Rat restaurant is coming back.

A family with experience in York County restaurants is opening the familiar eatery in Lake Wylie next month. The Randazzo family is holding its second job fair Wednesday, April 30.

“We’re mainly looking for servers,” said Alesandra Randazzo, general manager of Grid Iron in Steele Creek. “We’ll need about 30 servers, 15 people in the kitchen. We’ll need hosts. We’ll need bus boys. We need everything.”

Plans are to open the River Rat by invitation only May 20, then to all diners a few days after. Invitations for scheduled seating are available, as is information on the job fair, by emailing riverratlakewylie@gmail.com.

The aim is a “much more sophisticated” take on the local fish camp.

“We’re going to be known for seafood,” Randazzo said.

The new River Rat also will serve burgers, steaks and Italian food.

The River Rat building, on S.C. 557 across from Mill Creek Commons, was home to one of the area’s earliest and most iconic eateries. River Rat fed diners in Lake Wylie for more than 30 years before closing in summer 2010.

A new restaurant, Twin Rivers, opened in August last year. Local investors updated the location and hoped to capitalize on the success of their predecessor, but closed in early January.

Going with the earlier, once-successful name for a restaurant isn’t new for the Randazzos. Joe Randazzo opened Grid Iron in 2011, choosing to stay with the name that made the restaurant popular before it closed under different ownership and a different name. The Randazzos came to York County decades ago to run a restaurant for Jim Bakker, and have since run several, including several Tony’s Pizza locations and Papa Pino’s near Carowinds.

The family hopes for similar success at River Rat.

“It’s such a staple,” Alesandra Randazzo said. “It’s been around for a long time, and we were glad to be able to get in there. We’re looking forward to giving the community what they want.”

Susan Bromfield, president of the Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce, is familiar with the Randazzo’s area restaurants.

“They’ll make it successful, because they’re in the restaurant business,” she said.

River Rat is larger than many Lake Wylie restaurants, allowing for group events and parties, Bromfield said. The seafood focus could fit a niche, too, she said, with other established area restaurants focusing on steaks, barbecue, Asian dishes and other cuisines.

Gray Family Properties out of Gastonia, N.C., owns the River Rat building.

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