Over several decades, manhattans pizza bistro ● music club has matured into one of Guelph’s foremost culinary establishments. Just as the city itself has flourished into a vibrant, expanding community, Manhattans has also changed with the times. Having undergone a number of phases, our distinctive history tells the story:
1989: After moving to Fergus the previous year, Thomas Aldridge incorporates and purchases Pepi’s Pizza in Guelph at the corner of Willow and Westwood roads.
While creating a family friendly and licensed meeting place, Thomas serves the community, sponsors local activities, and for the next five years he learns the ropes of the pizza business.
1994: Thomas purchases Manhattans, a family owned New York-style pizzeria nestled on the edge of town bordered by farm pastures on one side and the City of Guelph on the other side. With help from the previous owners, Thomas creates a grassroots eatery featuring jazz music.
Thomas buys a Yamaha apartment-style stand-up piano and the restaurant is renovated and expanded. A rustic, eclectic outdoor patio is added, demarcated from the street and car park by a series of seven sun-faded doors of various lineages. With no dishwasher and a vintage Bari kitchen, Thomas and crew compost all wet waste while growing their own vegetables in the green space behind the restaurant. Manhattans becomes a beatnik spot with relaxed hours, no lunches, home-style food and a casual atmosphere.
1997: Urban development in the south end of Guelph forces Manhattans to relocate. The name is retained and Thomas decides to move steps away to 951 Gordon Street.
Within three months, a former real estate office is converted into a restaurant and club. With the help of a Toronto designer, the restaurant becomes an extension of the old one but now includes a stage big enough for a baby grand piano, a traditional bar, and a New Orleans inspired mezzanine. The seven sun-faded doors are installed in the lounge and Thomas commissions local blacksmith, David Robertson, to create three rod iron trees for the interior, reminiscent of the old patio. Though the size of the establishment more than doubles, Thomas and staff continue to offer outstanding service, quality food and something unique―local live music, particularly jazz. After three months of work the “new” Manhattans opens on New Years Eve, 1997.
2006: Clocking in at 200 hours, Manhattans achieves Guinness World Record for the longest concert by multiple artists, November 4–12.
2010: In the early morning of August 18th, 2010, Manhattans is damaged by a fire that starts in the sign of a neighbouring store. The building sustains a great deal of smoke and water damage. For the fourth time in his restaurateur career, Thomas is presented with the opportunity for change. Though the temptation to starting afresh at a new location downtown is enticing, he ultimately feels the restaurant’s current location is home to its patrons.
2011: Though devastating, the fire inspires Thomas to make further improvements to his 13-year-old shop as he and his staff continue to serve the community. After nine months of renovation that included new floors, walls and ceiling design, Manhattans re-opens again on May 9th, 2011.
2019: With bittersweet feelings Thomas takes a final bow on March 14, 2019 and hands the reins over to new owner/operator.