March 1, 2021


For Everyone Else

How Italian dining establishments received their get started in Lebanon County

From A&M to Pucillo’s, Mancino’s, Mannino’s to Bartolo’s, Soprano’s and Trattoria Fratelli, it appears to be like Italian food is everywhere these days in Central Pennsylvania. But that was not always the scenario.

It was not right until the center of the 20th century that Italian cuisine was introduced to Lebanon County, but when it was, it caught on speedy.

In the course of the 19th century, most restaurant foods in the United States was Germanic, and this was no various in Lebanon County.

Critics openly deprecated Italian delicacies throughout the United States, boasting that it was either much too garlicky or far too spicy in some scenarios, they also joined taking in Italian food with extreme liquor use in an exertion to persuade the standard public against it.

The Fior d’Italia in the late 1800s, the very first Italian restaurant in the country. (Fior d’Italia)

Other individuals condemned Italian and even French establishments as unconventional and distinctly un-American. But the wide vast majority involved Italian food stuff with poverty, and this happened to be the worst criticism of all. It turned a lot of away from Italian delicacies, and it would just take centuries because the very first Italians arrived in the Americas for their foods to be extensively appreciated.

All over the starting of the 20th century, Italian restaurants had been primarily restricted to much larger towns, exactly where they had a bigger prospect of being thriving. They have been referred to as foreign (now, ethnic) institutions, and they ended up controversial, with a lot of critics continuing to convey their disapproval.

The initially Italian cafe in the United States was Fior d’Italia, which opened in 1886 in San Francisco, wherever it remains to this day. Nevertheless, Fior d’Italia was alternatively isolated, and numerous of the other to start with Italian dining establishments originated on the East Coastline: Dante & Luigi’s Corona di Ferro and Ralph’s Italian Restaurant opened in Philadelphia in 1899 and 1900, respectively in New York, Barbetta opened in 1906 and Jeveli’s opened in Boston in 1924.

A postcard displaying The Environmentally friendly Terrace and its inside. (Digital Commonwealth)

It would just take a very little lengthier for Italian delicacies to start off trickling in from New York and Philadelphia and choosing up in Central Pennsylvania. It was not until finally the late 40s that dining establishments in Lebanon County began serving pizza and other conventional Italian foods. A single of the most distinguished of these establishments was The Green Terrace in Annville.

The Green Terrace initial opened in 1933, and for many many years, it was owned by Chris Thomas, until in 1942, he sold his pursuits in the enterprise to start a new fashionable restaurant and bar in Lebanon. In the years that followed, The Eco-friendly Terrace went by several entrepreneurs. In 1946, it was ruined by a fire, and soon after that, it was bought by local restaurateur and Globe War II Veteran Joseph Pavone.

But two a long time afterwards, in 1948, The Green Terrace fell into the hands of initial-generation Italian American Frank DiNunzio. He would invest the up coming two decades as section-proprietor of the cafe with his spouse Evelyn, and Italian food stuff would in no way all over again be the identical in Lebanon County.

DiNunzio was born in 1913 in Ambler, Pennsylvania, to mom and dad Nicola and Francesca, although he expended a lot of his childhood in Lebanon — the loved ones moved there around 1916. All through this time, DiNunzio’s father labored as a bookkeeper, a cobbler and a musician, and he turned effectively-regarded and revered in the local community.

The Eco-friendly Terrace and its menu a person calendar year soon after DiNunzio took command of the restaurant. (Lebanon Every day News, 2 July 1949)

Just before he started his vocation as a restaurateur, Frank DiNunzio would stick to in his father’s footsteps in the 1930s, he labored at the household shoe maintenance store in Annville, and for most of his everyday living, he was a musician. He played for quite a few bands all over his career, but probably most notably with Reg Kehoe and his Marimba Queens and the Perry Como Band.

In the 1940s, DiNunzio moved the shoe maintenance shop to South Railroad Road in Palmyra. At all around the very same time, he opened his 1st restaurant on North Railroad Street. It was merely known as DiNunzio’s.

So, when he decided to reopen The Eco-friendly Terrace on Aug. 10, 1948, Frank DiNunzio already experienced a number of several years of useful company practical experience. He kept objects on the menu that had been considered ordinarily American, but he also extra Italian dishes. Along with Virginia baked ham and Lebanon County roast pork, he was serving pizza, spaghetti, ravioli and veal scallopini.

DiNunzio’s accomplishment at The Environmentally friendly Terrace preceded that of quite a few new Italian eating places in Lebanon County. The Cocco Spaghetti Dwelling, operated by Italian immigrant Ludovico Cocco, opened Aug. 25, 1951, proudly promoting itself as “Lebanon’s only spaghetti dwelling,” with “30 yrs of working experience with Keystone Macaroni.” By then, the Lebanon-centered company Keystone Macaroni would have been renamed San Giorgio and have attained national recognition for its pasta (see our story on San Giorgio listed here).

In Mount Gretna, Ferretti’s Grill at the Kauffman Hotel started serving pizza and spaghetti as early as 1951. In that exact same calendar year, Sorrento Cafe opened in Cleona, where pizza and spaghetti were served. Supermarkets like Zweier’s and Weaver’s commenced selling distinct forms of pizzas and sauces all around this time as properly. In a lot less than a ten years, Italian food items was practically in all places in Lebanon County.

An ad for Cleona’s Sorrento Restaurant and its grand opening on Might 11, 1951. (Lebanon Daily Information, 11 May possibly 1951)
Afterwards in the 12 months, the Cocco Spaghetti Household opened on 10th Avenue in Lebanon. (Lebanon Daily News, 23 Aug. 1951)

Close to this time, the expansion of Italian food items was also happening in other sections of Central Pennsylvania. In 1947, 1 12 months before DiNunzio opened The Environmentally friendly Terrace, DeAngelis Grill (now, Fenicci’s) became the 1st restaurant in Hershey to serve pizza. And, by 1953, the Indian Echo Hotel also had pizza on the menu.

But of all these other places to eat, The Inexperienced Terrace remained one particular of the liveliest for a very long time. That was owing in significant component to DiNunzio’s track record as a musician. He arranged are living songs for his cafe on the weekends, and frequently, he performed there himself with his personal bands. By 1960, he had fashioned the Frankie DiNunzio Orchestra and was producing use of the ample area at The Eco-friendly Terrace to host large banquets and dances.

Right after he remaining The Green Terrace in 1968, he opened DiNunzio’s Cafe in Hershey. There, he also delivered dwell music. By that time, his son Frank Jr. (far better recognized as Frankie Dee) was pursuing a songs career as well, and he sometimes executed at the restaurant.

In 1979, DiNunzio marketed his Hershey institution to American Higher education Food stuff Support Institute president Donald Yoder, who retired from Elizabethtown Higher education to presume the place. He renamed it The Inn at Hershey and held their grand opening on June 22 of that calendar year.

DiNunzio was an achieved musician and performed in a wide variety of contexts, as with this German “oom-pah” band later on in his lifetime. (Lebanon Daily News, 29 May possibly 2000)

Right after an illustrious vocation in which he assisted provide Italian meals into Lebanon County, in 2005, Frank DiNunzio handed absent at the age of 91. In the decades due to the fact then, users of his family members proceed to have an effect inside the group.

Dave DiNunzio, Frank’s nephew, has held the loved ones trade of cobbling alive. In spite of quite a few shoe maintenance retailers heading out of small business in Lebanon, his stays really productive. Moreover, he sells subs in Lebanon at his have cafe, DiNunzio’s Reliable Italian Hoagie.

The record of Italian food items in the United States might be a good deal shorter than most people today realize, but more than the several years, it has certainly turn out to be an integral section of American culture.

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