Andrew Totaro is ushering out an era in Conshohocken, as Totaro's - the landmark restaurant that grew out of his parents' blue-collar taproom on Hector Street - will close after New Year's Eve after more than 51 years.
An orange liquor-transfer sign appeared in the window Friday, Nov. 9, and Totaro told his staff that Brian Pieri - who owns The StoneRose on Fayette Street in the borough - was the buyer.
The deal had been in the works for a year.
Totaro said the sale was precipitated partly by his business partner Dan Kreglo's planned move to Florida. "I was looking for partners and I got no takers," Totaro told me. Then he ran into Pieri. "He has so much enthusiasm, the likes of which I haven't seen [in the restaurant business] in years."
Pieri told me that he's planning to convert the place into a Mediterranean/pizza kitchen serving smaller plates ("not courses") of cooked-from-scratch pasta and pizzas from an oven to be built by an Italian craftsman. Pieri, who does not yet have a name for the new restaurant, said he was debating whether to style the pizza as Neapolitan or Tuscan (he's visited Garfagnana).
Much of the concept is reminiscent of Barbuzzo in Center City.
Totaro's was opened in 1961 by Vince and Yolando Totaro as a shot-and-a-beer. In the 1980s, it picked up a blackboard menu served in the rear dining room behind the bar and began to find its way onto the culinary map thanks to solid word-of-mouth from Main Line patrons. Totaro's was one of the first local bar-restaurants to ban smoking.
As the economy for fine dining faltered several years, Totaro's moved to more casual dining and removed part of a wall separating the bar from the dining room. More recently, Totaro said, he began reintroducing veal and lamb, which had come off the menu.
Settlement is now scheduled for the first week of January, Pieri said, intimating that New Year's Eve would be the swansong. "If not, shortly after," he said.
P.S. Totaro's is not related to Trattoria Totaro, run by Andrew's brother Vincent.