Aldario’s Restaurant closes after more than 40 years in Milford

It’s hard to say just how many wedding, reunion, christening parties and all the rest took place at Aldario’s Restaurant in the more than 40 years it had been in business on Naugatuck Avenue, not to mention how many dinners were served there over all those years.

Aldario’s closed last week: The building will become the new Knights of Columbus building.

Rosemary and Sante Faustini said the last thing they planned to take when they left the restaurant last Friday, the day the sale to the Knights of Columbus became final, was a painting of Sante’s father that hung on the wall near the entrance.

Aldario’s was established in 1975 by two brothers, Albert and Dario: That’s how it got its name, by combining the names Al and Dario.

Sante practically grew up here in this family restaurant. His father would be making meatballs and his mother prepping the sauce, and his uncle preparing another piece of the night’s menu.

Cousins and other family members would be found washing dishes or setting tables.

“It was a family thing,” Sante said.

Sante and Rosemary took over the restaurant in 1985, carrying on the family tradition of serving authentic Italian cuisine.

Sante managed the food, and Rosemary the “back of the house,” hostessing and managing accounts.

Last year, the Knights of Columbus Tinto Council No. 47 approached the couple about buying the restaurant: The former Knights of Columbus building on Bridgeport Avenue had become too costly, and the Knights were looking for a new home. While the Faustinis hadn’t even thought about it before the offer, after the Knights approached them again they said “yes.”

“It’s surreal,” Rosemary said last Thursday, as Sante showed members of the Knights around the building, told them how to move the booths to make more space if they wanted.

Sante practically lived at the restaurant, his wife said, noting that he’d put in 12- and 18-hour days over the years. Their children grew up working here.

“It’s been a good life,” Rosemary said. “Restaurant work isn’t easy.”

But it was binding. The staff and owners became like a family over the years. Lisa Gursky, for example, waitressed here for 19 years. “We watched all of our children grow up here,” she said.

Chris Lynk worked here 23 years, starting as a server and then becoming a bartender and manager. The Faustinis taught her what she knows about the business, and they were always very supportive, she said.

Her Facebook page features a photo of her in front of the restaurant.

It reads: “Goodbye it was an awesome 23 yrs!!!”

On the second to last day, they talked about all the city functions held here since 1975: The crowning of Miss Emerald Isle for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade; the quinceaneras, the big New Year’s Eve parties … always sold out: “It was the rockin’est,” Lynk said of New Year’s Eve.

They remembered the look on people’s faces when their server delivered the Zuppa di Pesce.

“You bring it out, it’s big, and people would say, did I order all that?” Rosemary said with a laugh.

In a letter of gratitude to the community sent to the local paper, Sante wrote about the many years his family has been in the restaurant business in Milford, going back three generations to his grandfather’s Sante’s Restaurant.

“We know you had many choices to choose from, but we are pleased and forever grateful that Aldario’s was your #1 choice,” he wrote. “Through the years, we have developed many friendships and loyal customers.  

“On behalf of my wife, Rosemary, my children Sante III and Ariana, and the entire Faustini family, I take the privilege of thanking you, our loyal customers, for your continued support and patronage to our restaurant.”

Next for the staff? Most have found other jobs. The Faustinis gave them plenty of notice that closing was coming.

For the Faustinis? Sante said they will take a little time off, and then start a new journey, a new concept. He talked about opening a new restaurant in the future, keeping the Aldario’s name, but perhaps focusing on more appetizers and tapas, health-conscious menu items, fine wines and beers.

After 30 years, it’s time to start a new adventure, he said.

People can follow Aldario’s on Facebook to stay up to date on the Faustini’s downtime and their future plans.