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Everything Old Is New Again

Mom-Daughters Trio Back On The Pie Beat At Oblio’s

By Cara DeGette

Editor, GPHN

In May, 2016, the Greater Park Hill News published a story recognizing a milestone of one of the neighborhood’s institutions: The 20th year of Oblio’s Pizzeria.

Many oldtimers expressed their congratulations, and shared their favorite memories about the pizza joint on 22nd and Kearney Street that they’d grown up with.

Oblio’s, many noted, is Park Hill’s version of Cheers, where everybody knows your name. It’s a place where many a neighborhood kid has marked birthdays, first dates, first jobs, and where they have headed before high school dances and after soccer games.

“Oblio’s is truly the prototype of a local tavern, right out of an Andy Hardy movie – human scale, personal and comfortable, serving a walkable community,” noted longtime Park Hillian Jack Farrar.

“The Kearney district has evolved into a vibrant, diverse business district and Oblio’s has played a huge role in that.”

Shortly after that article published, owner Tommy Gilhooly – who with his wife Nicole had operated the restaurant for 12 years – decided it was time to retire from the pizza business. And so it was natural for Gilhooly to reach out to the restaurant’s founders to see if they were ready for an encore performance.

And so it came to be that the McKay women are back, running the restaurant they started back in 1996. Dawn McKay and daughters Morgan and Tegwin say they are having a blast.

“My girls grew up in the restaurant and loved it and were so devastated when we sold it,” says Dawn McKay. “They’ve been so happy.”

“Still, never in my wildest dreams did I think we’d buy it back.”

The return of the McKays is serendipitous indeed, says Morgan McKay. “I was 10 and Tegwin was 12 when the restaurant opened, and we did a lot of dishwashing. I worked there until I was 19.” Growing up, McKay noted, Gilhooly was the kitchen manager, and he was like a big brother to her. When her parents sold him the business, they had an informal agreement that if he ever decided to sell he would ask them first if they wanted Oblio’s back.

“Me and Tommy have been so close our whole lives, and he knew Oblio’s means everything to me,” Morgan said.

Now, a year and a half later, the women have settled back into their grooves: Morgan heads up the kitchen operations, Tegwin is in charge of the bar and the front of the house, and Dawn oversees business operations. They work side-by-side on marketing decisions, and menu changes, and have incorporated design updates to the restaurant.

“The restaurant definitely needed some love, and we have thrown ourselves into it,” Morgan says. They’ve kept the classic menu favorites, but have added several new salads and some new pizzas. All the dressings are now homemade, and so are the desserts.

One tradition has and will continue, McKay said: A commitment to supporting Park Hill schools and nonprofit endeavors, which Oblio’s has long been known for.

The menu also now includes the story behind Oblio’s– which always comes up. Back in the 1970s the musician Harry Nilsson recorded the album “The Point,” in which a boy named Oblio is the only round-headed person in the Pointed Village. Oblio, who has a dog named Arrow, wears a pointy hat to fit in.

“It’s a really cool story, a story about overcoming racism and prejudice, and integration and accepting people who are different than you,” Dawn McKay said. “It’s still the same song we’re singing over and over again.”

Says Morgan: “It’s been a really fun journey for me, but also a huge learning experience. It’s really cool how my dad mentored Tommy and Tommy has mentored me. It’s really come full circle.

“We look forward to being here another 20 years.”

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