Matt Triveri, a restaurant manager at The Nittany Lion Inn, allowed me to speak with him and visit the restaurant to get a first-hand look at the restaurant itself and the zealous staff who are employed there.
The staff are the lifeblood of the restaurant and the name that it makes for itself. Most staff are students, employed there part-time, who treat the job with just as much passion as one would a full-time career. The job has a huge effect on the students–some, from interacting with diverse diners and making genuine connections, change their major to hospitality.
It’s more than a paycheck; it’s about the unique experiences they gather and the varying perspectives they get from working in the restaurant that makes the job amazing. The diners are either lodgers at The Inn, Penn State alumni, current students or visitors. For Matt Triveri, providing the diners with both great food and approachable, personable staff is what makes The Nittany Lion Inn a customized, memorable experience.
The Inn has both a restaurant (The Dining Room) and a casual eatery/bar called Whiskers. Whiskers has a homey feel to it, yet is also reminiscent of an elegant country club. But with this type of image comes stigma. Matt explained to me that restaurants like theirs often seem pretentious or impersonal. The Inn dispels this idea.
The restaurant currently has a heavy focus on wine. “It’s just grape juice,” Matt said when explaining the previously mentioned stigma. The Inn refuses to scare the diners with pretentious wine knowledge, and also doesn’t want the servers themselves to be intimidated by “more experienced” wine drinkers.
Matt ran a kitchen during high school and nearly bought the restaurant, but decided to come here to Penn State. He became the maître d of The Nittany Lion Inn to learn how the front part of the restaurant worked, and then became a manager a few months ago. One aspect that makes his job worth the hard work is seeing the impact the restaurant has on students. When hiring students, he would rather hire someone with a natural smile who is personable because “you can’t train personality,” though you can always teach the needed skills.
The Nittany Lion Inn has a seafood buffet every Friday night and is a la carte every other night. There is currently a brand new vegan selection available, and the menus themselves have been amended to bring a new spark to the restaurant; the food is a mix of classics and new adventurous dishes because the Inn wants to appease every guest. You can even eat food that’s not on the menu. Matt explained, “If we got it in the kitchen, we’ll make it for you,” which just shows the true dedication the restaurant has to pleasing the guests that dine there.