Totaro's is closing.
Co-owners Andrew Totaro and Dan Kreglo have sold the East Hector Street building to Brian Pieri, owner of the StoneRose restaurant on Fayette Street. The sale is likely to become final early next year, and Pieri plans to transform the restaurant into a showcase for Northern Italian cuisine.
"I feel fortunate to have been part of something so many people have fond memories of," said Totaro, 52, whose parents, Vince Sr. and Yolanda, started in business in 1961 at what was then a tavern. "It's overwhelming, but I believe the time has come, and I want to get out while it's still fun."
The restaurant attracted celebrities such as former 76er Charles Barkley while also serving as a go-to spot for office workers grabbing a quick lunch at the bar and neighbors who dropped in for an after-work drink.
Totaro and Kreglo are selling in part because Kreglo is moving to Florida to be near his mother. Totaro searched for a new partner with no luck. But Pieri, a stockbroker turned restaurateur who has lived in Conshohocken for 11 years, wanted the place to start a new restaurant.
"I look at it as, Andrew, someone in the community, passing the torch to someone else in the community," said Pieri, 34. "Andrew is getting to go and is being appreciated for everything he and his family have done."
Totaro's parents took over the tavern from Yolanda Totaro's brother, Nick Sperlunto. The couple moved into the apartment above the bar with their children - Vince Jr., Jackie, and Andrew. When Yolanda's sister died, the family took in her two children as well.
Yolanda Totaro would awaken early and walk down the steps to open the bar at 7 a.m. She worked until 2 p.m., when Vince Sr. would take over to mix drinks and host the regulars until 2 a.m.
Back then, Totaro's reflected Conshohocken's mill-town DNA. The bar served sandwiches and was patronized by factory workers. Yolanda Totaro's parents owned a zep shop in the borough and two brothers had owned taverns there.
A turning point came in the mid-1980s, when Vince Jr. and Andrew Totaro were working at the restaurant. A new chef was hired - from Milan. The cuisine took a leap, and so did the reputation of the 50-seat restaurant.
Boxer Joe Frazier, publisher Walter H. Annenberg, and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie dined there. The Toronto Blue Jays ate at the restaurant during the 1993 World Series with the Phillies.
Holmes and friend Randi Stante have celebrated birthdays there for decades. Stante, who worked as a bartender at Totaro's, met her husband there and also went into labor at the bar.
"My son will be 21 years old this year, and I won't be able to take him there for his birthday," Stante said. "It breaks my heart."
Andrew Totaro and Kreglo have managed the restaurant through tough economic times and watched as new eateries moved into the borough.
"Andrew always welcomed the restaurants," said pastry chef Leslie McLaughlin.
By then, Vince Totaro Jr. had opened his own restaurant, now called Trattoria Totaro on Spring Mill Avenue.
Andrew Totaro, a former wrestling coach for the Colonial School District, plans to turn his passion for health, nutrition, and juicing into a business with sister Jackie Kelly, who practices holistic healing arts.
Totaro, who lives next door to the restaurant, will have to watch as someone else opens the doors of what was his family's business.
"I'm not afraid of what is about to happen. No one died. We're not mourning anyone," Totaro said. "It's just the end of something and the beginning of something else."
Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or firstname.lastname@example.org.