Updated 10 p.m.
For Larry Colaianni, who owns Al’s Cone Zone — a.k.a. the Ultimate Pittsburgh Frozen Treat — getting into the ice cream business was a coincidence.
Years ago, Colaianni got hurt while working at Heinz Field, and he knew he couldn’t go back to the masonry union. Around the same time, he’d heard about a building for sale in Jefferson Hills. He bought the space, then a single-garage fire station, and transformed it into an ice cream shop.
While growing up, Colaianni’s parents owned a candy store called Al’s Dairy, which closed in the 1980s. It was located beside the building Colaianni purchased, so it only made sense to name his new shop Al’s Cone Zone.
“It was the best move I ever made,” he said.
Sixteen years after he launched the business, Al’s won the top spot in The Incline‘s Ultimate Pittsburgh Frozen Treat bracket, presented by The Philadelphia Contributionship.
Al’s ardent supporters turned out in droves tonight at a pop-up celebration in honor of the Jefferson Hills shop’s victory over Handel’s Homemade Ice Cream.
Al's Cone Zone Owner Larry Colaianni, right, poses with his grandson Leland Colaianni, 15.Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
Al’s, located off Route 885 and open seasonally, is known for its soft serve, and folks will wait in line to get one of these melty, sweet delicacies.
Colaianni of Clairton prioritizes quality, spending more for United Dairy soft serve with extra milk-fat, which is “really creamy,” he said.
Al’s is also known for its jumbo size cones — really jumbo.
“The large just makes it out the window,” said Denise Karloski, the shop’s daytime executive manager and a niece of Colaianni.
Al’s fans pulled through in the bracket competition week after week. Karloski handed out flyers asking customers to vote.
“Every day they were asking, ‘What’d yinz hear? Have you won?'” she said.
At the party, customers showered Colaianni and his staff with congratulations on their win. One brought balloons. Another brought containers of bubbles shaped like ice cream cones for the kids.
“My customers — they’re the greatest,” Colaianni said. “And the people who worked for me are fantastic.”