Posted by: dinerhotline | July 14, 2008

New Rochelle’s Thru-way Diner closes

Sunday, July 13th was a sad day for loyal customers as well as the owners and waitstaff of the Thru-way Diner. A large 1990 vintage DeRaffele diner located just off Interstate 95 in New Rochelle, NY, this diner and it’s earlier incarnations served many people over the years. In the 1980′s I recall seeing the diner this one replaced (although I never stopped in or photographed it) from the highway, it was an early 1960′s DeRaffele diner with a zig-zag roof. The current diner was of the early to late 90′s style DeRaffele built with a lot of dark green glass for the body and parapet and large plate glass windows all the way around.

Denise and I stopped at the Thru-way Diner for a coffee and desert break around 11 years ago on the way back from Wildwood, NJ. I really liked the place and knew that it was a local landmark. Unfortunately, the diner is closing because the owners decided to sell the property to the Wallgreens Pharmacy chain. Another case where money talks. There was a nice article online today written by Ken Valenti from LoHud.com.

Here is the text from that story….

Thru-way Diner serves last meal

NEW ROCHELLE – On its final day, the Thru-Way Diner bustled so busily, with waitresses shuttling plates of eggs and pouring cups of coffee, that the regulars who grew up there could almost forget that the icon was about to close.

But the servers and the patrons knew – or learned when they arrived – that they were ordering their last meals yesterday at the dining institution that served food near Interstate 95 for more than a half-century. It’s to be replaced by a Walgreens drugstore.

“I’ve been crying all day,” waitress Diane Potente, 60, said in the afternoon. From a pocket in her uniform, she pulled a card, still in its envelope, that she had gotten from a customer. Now, she’ll work at the Larchmont Diner, and customers will find meals there or at other eateries.

“But there ain’t nothing like the Thru-Way Diner,” she said. The Thru-Way was a place for churchgoers to socialize after worshipping, a haven for late-night revelers who would swallow coffee after leaving the bars, and a reasonably priced eatery for families dining out. It’s where friends who called themselves the Southside Boys would come after racing their muscle cars, where waitress Brenda Mauro brought her two daughters in the 1970s to do their homework and be doted on by other waitresses. It’s the first place where Army veterans Robert Savaideo and Lou Vaccaro stopped after returning from the war in Vietnam. Vaccaro came then with enough family members to fill a section of the place.

“I was still in uniform,” he said yesterday at the diner. Months ago, when word got around that the diner would close, fans rallied to save it. About 5,000 people signed a petition to City Hall, and hundreds joined facebook.com group Save the Thru-Way Diner. But the sisters who owned the diner, Donna Vaccari and Joanne Zappavigna, signed a contract to lease it to the Walgreens developer after their father, Don Zappavigna, the original owner, died in 1996. The sisters did not talk publicly about why they made the deal. They were not available for comment yesterday.

Even some of the youngest patrons questioned the move. “They do great stuff and they make a lot of money,” said Alexa Garcia, 7, who ate with her family at the diner yesterday. “There’s a CVS around here, and now they’re going to make a Walgreens? Why should they do that?” Sam Mauro, no relation to Brenda Mauro, ate at the diner as a child with his family and, later, as a teenager with his buddies, including Savaideo and Vaccaro. They called themselves the Southside Boys. When Mauro married a neighborhood girl and they had children, they all ate at the Thru-Way. Now 60, he was still coming about every month and a half with his old friends.

The DeRaffele-designed building where they dined yesterday, with polished stone and windows tinted and slanted, is at least the third incarnation of the diner at 810 Main St. Mauro remembered the building before the current one was put up in 1991.  “It was all orange and white inside,” he remembered. “The waitresses wore orange and white.” Brenda Mauro said she wore that attire, jokingly called the “creamsicle uniform.”
“I still have mine,” said the New Rochelle resident who is no longer a waitress. “I wear it on Halloween.”

She remembered serving food before they used computers. For the meal she ordered yesterday, two eggs over easy with rye toast, she would have called out, “Fry 21 over, whiskey down.” She held countless memories, like one of the time in the 1970s when late-night regulars put up $20 for her to throw a pie at a fellow waitress, and for the other waitress to return fire with a cake. They did it. Yesterday, people wrote their sentiments on sheets of paper taped up by the entrance. One note read: “Yankee Stadium + the Thruway Diner in the same year!! Just shoot me now!!” By 4 p.m., the door was locked. Sam Mauro, Savaideo and Vaccaro were among the last ones there. “It’s official,” Mauro said. “What are you going to do? We all split the last apple turnover they had in the case.”

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Responses

  1. How sad it is to see the closing of the Thru-way Diner. In 1961 and ’62 I was stationed at Fort Slocum in New Rochelle, on Davids Island, reached by ferry at the east end of Weyman Ave. the street off of Main, just east of the former diner on this location. It was always busy and when I returned in 2007 for a reunion, I made a return visit. I think it was a shame it was sold to make another drug store when there are other older, rundown buildings nearby that could be razed for a drug store.

  2. Bill, I totally agree. But unfortunately, the owners decided they wanted the money from the developer for the highly desirable location instead of continuing the operation of a local institution.

  3. I always will remember all those delicious open roast beef dinners that I use to have when I entered the Thru-way Diner. Being that I grew up in Mount Vernon in the 1970′s it was only a hop skip and a jump away from a good meal . I currently reside in Minnesota but am saddened by the closing because I had my heart set on another hot open roast beef. I wish them good luck and thanks for all the years that they fed not only me but my family as well.

  4. NOOOOOOOO! Now when we visit our hometowns (Mt. Vernon & Yonkers) we will have no sense of returning to a familiar place to eat. There is no reasonably priced place to stay,and now, no place to eat?? We come from Texas twice a year because we need to and want to. Guess we will survive on Costo hotdogs in lieu of the tasty Thruway chicken potpies, hamburgers, those wonderful dinner rolls and the pea soup. Really sad-another piece of my childhood and our ties to NY gone.

  5. To Linda and Bob Rice;
    I’d try either the Larchmont Diner, 2399 Boston Post Rd. Rt.1, in Larchmont, NY (914-833-2062) or the Nautilus Diner, 1240 Boston Post Rd., Mamaroneck, NY (914-833-1320)

  6. I worked at the ThruWay diner for almost two years. It was a fun, vibrant and BUSY place to be!! I cannot believe that the owners (whom I hardly ever saw) would sink so low as to sell out to a chain drugstore; especially as there is already one DIRECTLY behind it!! Chalk it up to greed over tradition. It seems to be winning almost every time. Shame on the owners of ThruWay. Shame on them.

  7. Went there beginning in the 1960s with my Dad, who was a regular. Always enjoyed the food and the service. I also recall the place having a major fire sometime in the early 1970s. Why do we need another cookie cutter drug store?

  8. please boycott the walgreens store, as a permanent tribute to the thruway diner. thank you.

  9. Can you say “french fries with brown gravy”? My best friend from college and I used to go here almost every Saturday night to have cheesecake and tea (her) and chocolate layer cake and milk (me), and complain about our love lives. Christine died of cancer in 2002, and now this is gone. My heart is breaking.

  10. my dad owned the Mobil Gas Station right on the Corner of Russell Avenue (in front of the Modern Pizzeria) and we lived in the back on a tiny little street (dead end) Villus Avenue. The diner was the place to go after Mass on Sunday mornings and as we got older, the place for that 2:00 AM food crave after drinking and partying at one of the clubs. Brings back so many memories!!!

    • I remember your dad well! My grandfather was a regular as he only trusted your dad to work on his car. When my family moved to Allard Ave., my parents became regulars as well.

      I remember hitting the Modern Pizzeria after softball games.

    • Was your fathers name Sam?

  11. They made the best cheese burger in the world.

  12. I remember when we would go there after the Rocky Horror Picture Show. We would act like such fools. I remember when me and my girl would go there after breaking night. Of course, that was the coolest thing in the world at that time. We would even order shit that wasn’t on the menu and that was o.k by them. Those were the days and they will be missed.

  13. I started working at the Thru-Way Diner in 1972. Sal was there about a month before me and taught me how to bus tables there. We had a great time breaking into the restaurant business and serving the morning church groups as well as the late night bar crowds. We remember Don(the boss) showing up early in the morning and he always knew what was going on. He was a great operator and a good man.
    Sal and I are together along with some of the other Thru-Way cooks. Come by and say hello, taste the rice pudding, and our real buttermilk pancakes. We are holding a new improved tradition of the Thru-Way!

  14. My first date with my wife when we were dating in 1970 was eating dinner at the Thru-way Diner. Great memories.

  15. My friends and I ate there after the prom in 1979. We went to a club right after the prom but we had to end it up at the Thru-way. One person squirted ketchup all over is light colored tux.

  16. Thanks Sanya,
    It seems like any great neighborhood diner, the Thru-way holds a lot of memories for many people! We had one where I grew up in Medford, Mass. It was Carroll’s Diner which closed at the end of 1986 and was torn down in 1987. People still talk about the place and to this day nothing has come along to replace it.

  17. I sure will miss my early morning eggs and bacon. The cheeseburgers were out of this world. Sad sad day!

  18. This place was part of New Rochelle history!!In the 70′s after the clubs on Main st closed it was off to the DINER!!!Driving a cab over at Deluxe taxi the diner was always the place to go for coffee!!!

  19. After mass… after softball games at Donofrio field… after Dudleys… after anything… too bad.. a great memory 70′s!!

  20. The last trip my husband and I made from S.C. to R.I. we pulled off of 95 to go to the Thruway Diner It was about 2am and we needed a break, what a big surprise we got. I believe there was no one over the age of 30 and it was jammed packed. Infact a off-duty police officer was standing at the front door
    looking like a bouncer. It’s a shame that the old diners are all but about gone.
    Anyone who had never experienced eating at the Thruway Diner has truly
    missed out on a great place.

  21. The Thruway Diner was the place to go for a great late night snack, especially the desserts. The best Napoleon’s anywhere! I now live upstate, but anytime my family and I were in the area, the diner would always be one of our stops. Many good times were had there with friends. It will be greatly missed.

  22. I can’t believe the Thruway Diner is closed. That was a landmark in New Rochelle! I remember that place after church, after school sometimes and always after a night out on the town! It was the place to be.

    I was very sad to hear it is no more.

  23. I loved and miss the Thru-Way diner. I remember my grandparents taking me and my brothers there for breakfasts during the week before we reached school age. I then enjoyed family dinners there into my teens, and then late night coffee with cheese fries and gravy (healthy, I know). So many good memories there, I can’t believe it is gone, I guess I took it for granted assuming it would be there forever. What a shame…I wish I could buy one of it’s old table juke boxes :)

  24. I lived a block away from the diner (Allard Ave.). Aside from the usual I was hooked on their Boston Cream Pie. It was a great retreat for a kid with the munchies.

  25. Currently stuck on an Amtrak train looking out at Walgreens. My grandmother used to bring me to the dinner for “Romanian Tenderloin”. Last visit was after the Old Timers Day Game at Yankee Stadium in 1976. 10 Years later I was stopped on a Merchants Limited Amtrak train to Boston for a good 3 hours right in front of the diner location as I am currently. Only years later did I realize it was the same place I had gone to as a child. A real loss.

    Doubtful that someone will wax nostalgic for Walgreens in 30 years…..

  26. Anyone remember a waitress named Agnes? My mom worked the night shift with her at the Thruway diner in the early 60′s. My mom’s on the phone now telling me some great stories of working there.

  27. I for one remember the Thru -Way diner and the owner Don Zappavigna very well, Don brought me from Scotland in 1964 and I worked as a waitress in his diners for 33 years..He was a good man and at times a tough boss but he sure got the job done. His two daughters Donna and Joanne I watched grow into lovely young lady’s and get married, I don’t believe they sold the diner for the money, it just wasn’t their thing.. Let me not forget his lovely wife Mary and brother Sam. I moved to Long Island and when I returned to New Rochelle and saw an empty lot with NO THRU-WAY DINER I had to pull over and wipe the tears from my eyes, my own daughter had her first date with her husband at the famous thru-way diner!!!!!!Great stories I could tell about diner life however I will end with { between a burger } Retired Grandma.

  28. I’ve lived nearby the diner for 25 years. How I miss it! The gumbo, the warm chicken salad, the rice pudding! I work the night shift, and it was a warm feeling to drive by and know there were lots of other people inside, the place was like a beacon in the night. So just yesterday I drove by and was reminiscing…..then today I see an article in the weekly newspaper from earlier this month. guess what!?? They gonna build a diner at the corner of Weyman and Main!!! Can’t wait!

  29. I grew up in New Rochelle-every weekend after running our cars on I-95, we would go to the Thru-way Diner. Park our cars in the Citgo station next door.
    This was in the 60′s and 70′s.I miss New Rochelle and everything with it.


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