HUNTINGTON - The newly renovated food court at Marshall University's Memorial Student Center had a soft opening Aug. 19. Among the new options are an expanded Chick-fil-A and Steak 'n Shake - and one restaurant that is unique to Huntington.

La Famiglia Express is a spin-off of the original La Famiglia on 6th Avenue. The new restaurant features a variety of pizzas as well as stromboli, hoagies and pasta.

Jordan Hagy, who co-owns and operates the original La Famiglia with his family, has played a big part in overseeing the new restaurant.

"Our original location opened in October of 2011, and we opened it in an old Victorian-style house that I lived in when I went to Marshall. It has a lot of ties to the Herd, as I believe a group of Marshall soccer players lived there before I did. After I graduated undergrad in 2011 we began construction and opened that fall. When we originally opened, we planned on being more of a deli, kind of a quick-service restaurant. Almost what our Express is now," Hagy said. "We learned there was a bigger demand for a full-service style restaurant in that part of town. So it grew in that direction, and we've been operating it that way now for almost eight years now."

Hagy said the family was approached by Sodexo, who has the dining contract at Marshall.

"They told us that they would love to something featured at the university that is local and a fresh comfort zone. They said we would like to offer something fresh and a little different than what they've had before. So, we filled that void," Hagy said. "We're all Marshall alumni at the original restaurant. My mother, father, brother, wife and sister-in-law all went to Marshall. So we all have deep ties to the Herd, and they wanted a piece of Huntington to be on campus. We wanted the La Famiglia Express to be a kind of a taste of what we do at our 6th Avenue restaurant. It gives the kids the chance to sample the different flavors of Italy and what we do in regards to the fire-baked pizzas, the fresh-baked pastas, and imported meats and cheeses. We wanted to model this place after the Italian Autogrills and the Italian quick-service pizza places."

Work on the new food court began in May after the spring semester. The new restaurant features a pizza oven, which was supplied by Marra Forni.

La Famiglia Express features a variety of 8-inch pizzas including a Marco ($6) Margherita style pizza with tomato sauce, basil, roasted garlic, olive oil and mozzarella cheese. There's also an Americano ($7) style pizza with sliced pepperoni, mozzarella and provolone. The restaurant also has a selection of pastas including Baked Bianco ($7), which is pasta baked with a cream sauce and a blend of cheeses. You can also enjoy a sub sandwich ($4.50 half, $8 whole) such as the Carne, which has thin-sliced capicola, prosciutto, salami, pepperoni, provolone cheese, lettuce and white balsamic vinaigrette. There's also an Italiano Salad ($7), which has lettuce, chopped tomato, onion, basil, Pecorino Romano cheese, croutons and a white balsamic vinaigrette. For dessert you can grab a cannoli for $2.

"We are still getting our feet wet and trying some items out engaging the responses of the students. We want to tailor our menu to the demand of the campus life. We are growing as we go," Hagy said. "It's really been a learning experience for us. We have never done something on this scale before. This is our first venture in the quick-service fast-paced field, and no one really can be prepared for the amount of customers you are going to have on a college campus. It's a kind of learning process for us on how to best regulate things and get things out in a timely manner. It's really been kind of fun as we learn."

Hagy said they are keeping the menu simple in the beginning, but would like to feature specials like the 6th Avenue restaurant.

"Once we really get up and running, we might have an Italian sausage day, a homemade meatball day, pulled pork or a Tuscan chicken breast," he said. "We also talked about doing pepperoni rolls."

La Famiglia Express is located in the Marshall University Memorial Student Center in the 1600 block of 5th Avenue. It is open from 10:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Saturdays. It is closed Sundays. Cash and all major credit cards are accepted as well as Herd Points, Flex Points and Student Meal Plans. For specials and more information on the 6th Avenue location, follow them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LaFamigliaDeli/.

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