Shortstop Bar and Grill in Westfield has been proudly serving Western Mass for the better part of the last decade. Head chef Monica Guarnieri shared, “This is all I’ve wanted to do and all I’ve known.” Monica, the daughter of Nabil and Julie Hannoush, has been involved with the restaurant since its inception, specializing in desserts. “My father emigrated from Lebanon when he was three. Since then, he’s started a variety of businesses and noticed there wasn’t a family-oriented sports bar in the Pioneer Valley. Our goal was to create a sports-themed environment where women and children would feel included and welcomed.”
At around age 10, Monica began baking custom orders for friends and family. “Being of Lebanese and Italian descent, food is a large part of those cultures, so it was a very natural thing for me to learn," she explained. "It just so happened that it was also my calling. What fascinated me as a child was seeing how a few simple ingredients are turned into delectable meals.” Pursuing her interest in the culinary field, she attended the Culinary Institute of America in 2014, learning many skills that she is putting to use today at the Shortstop. “Our most popular dessert dish on the menu is the crème brulee. I also find that to be my specialty in baking.”
As with many businesses across the country, Shortstop was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, being one of the first establishments to voluntarily close its dining room and offer take out only. “I was pregnant with my daughter at the time, and the risk of transmission between my dad, myself, and our employees just wasn’t worth it. It was financially hard, but we made it through. The surrounding community really rallied around us and we were able to stay open,” stated Monica.
She believes it is important to give back to the same community that has helped the restaurant grow. Several students from the culinary program at Westfield Technical Academy are currently shadowing Monica and the employees. “It’s important to get them involved so they can earn real-world experience before they start their professional careers if they wish to do this.” In addition to helping students, The Shortstop also hosts community functions and fundraisers, whether it is a neighborhood HOA meeting or Westfield High Senior Class fundraiser.
Looking ahead to the next ten years, Monica has simple goals. She says, “We plan to evolve with the times and keep up with the wants of our customers. We are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic, and the culinary industry has been trying to evolve with that. I know we’ll make it through and continue to offer our patrons a pleasant evening.”