WESTFIELD - Calarco's first opened its doors on Market Street in 1933, though it began life as a grocery, not a restaurant.
Westfield was somewhat different in those days, as was much of the country. The United States was in the grip of the Great Depression, but that didn't stop Virginio and Jennie Calarco.
"Things weren't easy when my father and my mother started in the 1930s," Vinnie Calarco said.
Vinnie Calarco, right, and his wife Charlotte, left.
Times were hard, and many people put their groceries on credit. Calarco recalls his parents never turned anyone away.
"One day father pulled out his receipt book and asked me to throw it in the stove," Calarco said. "'Why?' I asked him. He told me because these people will never be able to pay. So that was it, we closed up the store."
After the grocery closed its doors, it reopened them in the form of a restaurant. Shortly thereafter Calarco, who turned 90 years old recently on May 18, was enlisted to fight in World War II. When asked what kept him going through those difficult days, Calarco replied, "thinking about going home."
When the war was over, that's exactly what Calarco did, but not before marrying his sweetheart, Charlotte. The two of them quickly got to work in the family restaurant. They started a family, having three children - Steve, Gini and Tim.
When asked what makes a restaurant successful, Calarco will tell you first and foremost it is family. Every one of Vinnie and Charlotte's children have worked in the family business at one time or another, as have their grandchildren.
"Everybody pitches in," Vinnie Calarco said.
The walls of the restaurant are lined with old family photos from days long past, and if you ask him, Calarco will tell you about his father and the old country, though make sure there is enough time for the stories that will follow. The second key to success, according to Calarco, comes from advice his father once gave him.
"Make sure you give a 'lots of food," Calarco said in his father's heavy Italian accent.
That's exactly what Calarco's Restaurant offers - plenty of good food and a place to come together. Calarco fondly recalls one particular family.
"A man came in with his granddaughter and said his dad used to bring him here," Calarco said.
Calarco's Restaurant is not just a place to eat, but a place to celebrate the community. Come in for the food, but stay for the experience.