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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