By Matt Petras
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Anthony Ciotti, co-owner of Antney’s Ice Cream in Green Tree along with his wife Lee Anne, thought he felt some plain old indigestion pain one day in late May. He had been going to the doctor for that already, and Lee Anne had actually gone into cardiac arrest the previous month.
When he got to the hospital, he learned he needed heart bypass surgery. And, surprisingly, when he spoke to me about it, he seemed a little gleeful.
“What a neat process though, Matt. I’ll tell you,” he says. “I’d do it again. I wouldn’t want my chest open, but, just going to the catheter, you’re seeing your heart, they’re pumping all the ink in it, the dye. You’re talking to the cardiologist. It was like a party.”
I told him I’d imagine most people I know wouldn’t describe it that way.
“Oh my God was it interesting,” he says. “Honest to God.”
But since the couple has been put through the ringer recently, the store has been closed for much of the summer. However later this month, they’re reopening the shop.
Known for its long list of eclectic flavors, this beloved Pittsburgh-area ice cream shop will be entering its eighth season of operation. The couple decided to start their own business after running two Rita’s Italian Ice locations. Anthony learned the art of ice cream At any given time, Antney’s offers 16 constantly changing flavors. There are perhaps more than 500 flavors total at this point, Anthony says.
New flavors include chocolate milk and cookies and ruby chocolate, which Anthony says has been referred to as “the fourth chocolate.”
“It tastes like milk chocolate with a background note of a little bit of fruit and then a sour taste at the end, you get,” he says.
The 58-year-old Anthony makes all of the ice cream in-house from scratch with milk, sugar and cream. It goes into a freezer overnight, then into a cooler, then into the dipping boxes where it’s served to customers. Though it’s not yet open, Anthony has been going down to the shop to just make ice cream – he says it takes about two weeks of preparation to get ready. He took a course in ice cream making at Penn State University, whose Creamery is often credited with some of the best ice cream in the state.
Antney’s employs about 10 people. A few teenagers went off to college, but the rest will be returning to work once they’re back in action.
“We were gonna probably stay closed, but you know what… all the customer response we had was unbelievable,” Anthony says. “I couldn’t describe how great they were.”
They’ve been updating their customers about their health and the status of the shop through their Facebook page. Support in the form of social media comments, reviews and likes have predictably come flooding in, but the couple has also received gifts from customers like food and cards.
The couple appreciates this support, as they’ve been stuck in hospitals a lot recently. When chatting with Pittsburgh Current, the couple was at the beginning of a five-hour day at a hospital. During her last appointment, Lee Anne met with a slew of doctors, including a nutritionist, physical therapist and occupational therapist.
“I’m excited to see what kind of information they’ll give me today,” Lee Anne says.
Anthony glowed with appreciation for the doctors who have helped them throughout the process.
“Even just the anesthesiology people, they were all great, terrific,” Anthony says. “I was at Upper St. Clair, and Lee Anne was at Mercy. Even at Mercy, they treated her like, you know, it was unbelievable what they do down there.”
Despite all of the time spent at the hospital and all of the serious tests and procedures, the couple is doing well.
“All the doctors are impressed with our progress,” Anthony says. “I mean, they said I should have been dead three times, and Lee Anne should be in a nursing home now.”
Lee Anne needed immediate help after she suffered a heart attack. Anthony was impressed by that help, too.
“Thank God for the first responders, the city firefighters,” Anthony says. “They revived her, and then off to the hospital she went.”
They’re eager to get back to work. They keep the business going because of just how enjoyable it is, Anthony says.
“It’s just the fun of it,” he says. “You have fun with the customers. You have fun with the employees.
“The customer base and then our employees are all coming back. It’s like nothing even happened, almost.”