Now it’s a Walgreens. No clutter in Homestead beyond the mass-produced-retail variety.
But right there, at the end of the Homestead Grays Bridge, facing Eighth Street, was Chiodo’s Tavern. Packed full of stuff — beer steins, street signs, statues, helmets, boxing gloves — orders backing up in the kitchen for the Mystery Sandwich, it was home for its regulars. Enough so that no one remembered the owner ever calling the cops.
Joe Chiodo owned the place. For 58 years he poured and talked and collected and corrected people on the proper spelling of his name. Born in Italy in 1918, he moved to Pittsburgh at 9 and always insisted on the proper Italian pronunciation of his last name: KEY-oh-doh. No yinzerization allowed.
Not that he didn’t love him some Steelers, getting a trophy to pass between another bar owner in Cleveland and even getting his face on a Steelers game ticket during the team’s 50th anniversary season because he’d been a season-ticket holder the longest — a block of 36 season tickets had been his as long as he’d had the bar.
Out back, facing the bridge, he had an old streetcar from the 68 line that used to go past Kennywood. It was just the front of the car, but people still stopped to ask to stand in it.
It was one of the first Pittsburgh bars with a wider selection of beer — at least more than the factory workers and college kids had usually seen. It helped show that a different kind of product could sell.
He figured he’d been open so long and become such a destination that everybody had been there, pretty much. And he wasn’t necessarily wrong. Owners of the Pirates, Russian diplomats, and everyone in between, if those things are really so far apart to begin with.
And then, in 2005, it was enough. Open as Chiodo’s since 1947, a bar of some kind since 1890, the place would close as Joe retired.
There was an auction. Some people bought back their old stuff that had been hanging in the bar forever. The recipe for the Mystery Sandwich went for $450. An alligator jaw sold for $110. It was a bar built by just about everyone, so it was easy for bidders to see something of themselves, lot by lot, in what was for sale.
The auction was in April 2005. Joe himself lasted until August 2007, when he died at 89.
Even with the bar gone, even with him gone, those who still call it the High Level Bridge have to work to see the Walgreens. For them that spot will always be Chiodo’s.