Bellefonte , Pennsylvania 16823
First things first.
Bonfatto's is NOT shutting it's doors.
"We are definitely not closing and I really want people to know that!," owner David Letterman emphasizes when we speak on the phone. So let's squash that rumor right here and now. Yes, in case you hadn't heard by now, the restaurant- which will celebrate it's 100th birthday next year- is going through some significant changes. But all of them, according to Letterman, are exciting and welcome and full of promise.
As for now, they've sold off their liquor license but are maintaining an absolutely free BYOB policy for diners. No cork fees, no hidden charges. Bring your favorite wine to enjoy with your pasta. You don't pay a cent.
"You even save money on your overall dining experience this way," Letterman points out.
And so long-time regulars and occasional customers alike can rest assured that this Italian food institution is not going anywhere. Well, until February 2019, that is. Because that's when Bonfatto's will be saying goodbye to their current space along Zion Road on the outskirts of town in favor of new digs back in the heart of it all. Early next year, Letterman and crew will be reinventing their restaurant's tried-and-true legacy when they open the doors to Bonfatto's Italian Market and Corner Cafe right downtown at 401 W. Hight Street. The new space in a historical building is being renovated as we speak.
And Letterman is obviously excited.
"Oh man, this is going to be so great. An amazing space, amazing location; just a different dining experience for all of our customers. We'll have a new menu and a different atmosphere," he explains.
Then he pauses for a second, considers what's he's telling me.
"But of course we'll still be making Bonanza subs," he laughs. "People around here would riot if I stopped making those!"
Beyond the food and the atmosphere though, this entire project of moving Bonfatto's within walking distance of Talleyrand Park and everything downtown has to offer has an even deeper meaning for Letterman and his family, as well as all of the local families around here who have been eating their food for as long as they can remember. Because Letterman is, in so many ways, bringing the century-old family business home. After all, it was his own grandparents who opened the original Bonfatto's at 214 W. High Street. And back then, and for decades to come, even a series of necessary moves and one devastating fire couldn't cause the family to move their business from downtown. One location or another, Bonfatto's was a staple downtown.
In fact, it wasn't until 2000 when Bonfatto's finally left the center of Bellefonte for those newer pastures out along Zion Road. There, the legacy continued. But now, well, there is something kind of lovely about the idea of them coming back downtown once again, don't you think?
"It's like, you guys are moving back where you belong," I suggest to Letterman when we talk.
"It IS exactly like that!," he concurs. "You know, this new location, I stand there and look out the window and I can actually see buildings right up the street where my grandparents used to live a long time ago. Now we're coming back here again and it feels right."
And aside from the delicious Italian fare the family restaurant has always served this town, it might just be his new venture into the cafe world that's really inspiring Letterman the most these days.
"I am so excited about the cafe end of things," he says. "We're going to do things the old school way, using traditional hand-pulled machines to make espresso and cappuccino. I cannot wait."
So there you have it.
Bonfatto's is still very much alive. And they aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Where we all know they belong.
What future do you envision for your community, for this town, for Bellefonte, Pennsylvania?
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