Portland’s Living Food History
The launch of new restaurants and markets is always exciting news on PFM, a lot of time is spent staying on top of the Comings, and sometimes the Goings, but rarely on the Still Here’s. So I thought it would be worth taking a moment to take notice of the other end of the spectrum—those in business for more than 20 years.
Here’s what I have so far. Please email me at email@example.com with additions and corrections.
Note: There have been a lot of additions (and some subtractions) since this page first went live. I’ll be keeping this page up to date as I learn more. (3/19/2011)
1866 – Schlotterbeck-Foss is a “purveyors of specialty foods and fine flavors” that’s headquartered in a John Calvin Stevens building on Preble Street in Bayside. The company was founded in Portland by Augustus G. Schlotterbeck and Charles S. Foss.
1867– the Burnham & Morrill Company, maker of B&M Baked Beans was founded in Portland by George Burnham and Charles S. Morrill. The firm has canned numerous different products including corn, lobster and clams over the 140+ year history. It wasn’t until 1927 that they started producing their iconic Baked Beans—a product line that continues to this day at the B&M factory in Portland. Since 1965 the B&M brand has been owned by one company or another; they’re currently a subsidiary of B&G.
1883 – Hannaford Bros. was established by Arthur Hannaford, who was later joined in the business by his brothers Howard and Edward. They started by selling produce from their family farm in Cape Elizabeth.
1921 –Oakhurst Dairy was founded by Stanley T. Bennett at 332 Woodford Street on December 21, 1921. The dairy later moved to their present location on Forest Ave.
1934 – the Eastland Park Hotel opened during prohibition on June 15, 1927. At that time the top floor was known as the Sun Parlor. After prohibition was repealed in 1933 it was turned into the Top of the East cocktail lounge.
1935 – Harry Nanos ran a confectionery shop at 469 Stevens Ave from 1926 until he sold the business to Samuel Brown in 1935. Brown renamed it Janette Quality Shop and 2 years later the name was shortened to simply Quality Shop. It wasn’t until 1970 that the business moved to its current location at 473 Stevens Ave.
1936 – Forest Gardens opened at 371 Forest Ave.
1939 – John Smaha bought the Columbia Market in South Portland from his brother Herb and renamed it Smaha’s Legion Square Market. Tom Smaha bought took over the business from his father in 1967.
1945 – Joe’s Smoke Shop was founded by Joseph L. Discatio.
1947 – Both Eddie’s Variety and Vaughan Street Variety were started in 1947. Pizza by Angelone was Maine’s first pizza shop. It was started by John V. “Jack” Angelone and his wife Carol on Veranda Street. Jack taught a man named C.D. Farnsworth how to make pizza and CD “Pat” Farnsworth founded the chain of Pat’s Pizza. Kristie Green, the founder of Maple’s Organics is the granddaughter of Jack Angelone. She credits him as the source for the entrepreneurial spirit that prompted her to start her own business.
1949 – Micucci’s Grocery was started by Leo and Iris Micucci. The store’s current location at 45 India Street didn’t open until 1965. The Miss Portland Diner originally opened in February 1949 at 175 Forest Ave, and in 1964 moved to Marginal Way near the intersection with Hanover Street. After closing up the business in 2004, then owner Randy Chasse donated the lunch car to the City of Portland. The city sold the diner to Portland native Tom Manning who situated the diner at its present location on Marginal Way and reopened it October 31, 2008. The diner car was built by the Worcester Lunch Car Company, and is No. 818. Joseph Botto opened Botto’s Bakery on Washington Ave. Botto sold the business to Everett Mathews in 1982 whose family continues to run the bakery.
1951 – there have been grocery stores operating at 484 Stevens Ave–where Pat’s Meat Market is located–since the early part of the 20th Century, and over the years it’s been bought and sold numerous times. Pat’s Meat Market was started by Pat Vacchiano. He and his family have operated meat markets in Portland since 1917 when Pat’s father opened the Sanitary Meat Market on the corner of Middle and India Streets.
1952 – Red’s Dairy Freeze in South Portland was opened by Leonard “Red” Bolling who operated it as a Tastee Freeze franchise until 1965 when Bolling went independent. Vivian’s Drive-In was established by Vivian L. Vintinner who sold it to Joyce Perry in 1964 who then sold it to the current owner Donna Morgan in 1995.
1956 – Moran’s Market was founded by Bernard Larsen and his brother-in-law Thomas Moran. Moran died a few years later. Larsen and his wife Dorothy ran the store for many years and it’s now managed by their children.
1959 – DiPietro’s Market.
1965 –Tony’s Donut Shop was started by Antonio Fournier. The shop was originally located across the street in the present day location of Anania’s. Fournier had run a wholesale bakery in Westbrook from 1950 until moving to Portland and opening the donut shop. Pizza Villa was started by Mike Regios, an immigrant from Greece. Sons Tony and Phil now co-own the pizzeria. Their dad opened the shop as a way to augment his income as a tailor.
1969 – Harbor Fish Market was established by Ben Alfiero Sr. and he passed the business own to his three sons Nick, Ben and Mike. The Lobster Shack was founded by Ruth and Jim Leadbetter and it’s now run by their grandson and his wife. Lib’s Dairy Treats served its first ice cream cone in 1969.
1972 – Amigo’s
1973 – Old Port Tavern
1975 – Bubba’s Sulky Lounge was started in 1960 by Robert “Bubba” Larkin as Bubba’s Cafe. In 1975 the Sulky Lounge opened at that location and in 1979 the building was replaced after a fire. Forest Gardens and Paul’s Food Center were also both started in 1975. Paul’s was founded by Paul Trusiani.
1978 –Tortilla Flat
1979 – The Great Lost Bear was founded by Dave & Weslie Evans and Chip MacConnell. The bar was originally known as The Grizzly Bear but changed their name in 1981 after a legal challenge from an existing West coast operation called Grizzly Bear Pizza.
1980 – Dock Fore was founded by sisters Susan and Nancy Hezlep in the space that had long been the home of Zeitman’s Grocery Store. In 1980 Three Dollar Deweys opened at the intersection of Union and Fore before moving around the corner in 1995 to their location on Commercial Street.
1982 – DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant was started by Tony DiMillo. He had run a series of restaurants in Portland dating back to 1954 when he started Anthony’s on Fore Street. The restaurant is now run by Tony’s sons Steven and Johnny and his grandson Steven Jr. Ruski’s opened for business in 1982 and in 1985 R. Steven Harris bought the bar. He and his wife Rose (the namesake of Rosie’s) operated the restaurant until 2005 when it was sold to Josh Whaley, a longtime customer.
1983 – Geno’s Rock Club was founded by Geno D’Alessandro. The club was originally located on Brown Street. According to The Bollard, D’Alessandro had also “owned the bar formerly known as The Brass Rail, on Forest Avenue, and had owned and operated various other eating and drinking establishments in New England.” The Dry Dock was founded, and back in 1983 Mark Gatti thought he’d run Mark’s Hot Dogs for “just a couple years”. Decades later he’s a fixture on the corner of Exchange and Middle Streets, rain or shine. Must See TV: watch this excellent documentary on Mark’s.
1984 – Dyer’s Variety.
1985 – Portland’s first sushi restaurant, Sapporo, was founded by Yoshi Hayashi. It opened for business on Apil 13, 1985 at its original location 24 Free Street. Hayashi’s cousin Takahiro Sato was the founder of Yosaku. 1985 also marked the opening of the Madd Apple Cafe that later turned into BiBo’s Madd Apple Cafe. It’s also the year that Ricky’s Tavern, aka Rockin’ Ricky’s Tavern, opened.
1986 – David and Karen Geary established Portland’s and New England’s first microbrewery, DL Geary Brewing Co. The first run of beer went on sale December 10, 1986. The Wharf Street Cafe and Wine Bar opened in 1986, several years later it moved across the street and was renamed The Wine Bar. The Old Port Tavern Billiards and the Portland Fish Exchange also opened in 1986, as did The Good Table in Cape Elizabeth.
1987 –Rosie’s was started by Steve Harris and his wife Rose for whom the restaurant is named. Also in 1987, Blackstones opened their doors, and Full Belly Deli was started by David Rosen “with the help and Guidance of the late George Bress” (see below for more on George’s Delicatessen).
1988 – Steve Quatrucci founded The Back Bay Grill and 2 years later he sold it to Joel Freund. Then in 2002 Freund sold it to Larry Matthews who had been the Executive Chef since 1997. Cakes Extraordinaire first opened their doors in 1988. Gritty McDuff’s,Portland’s “first brewpub since prohibition ended”, was co-founded by Richard Pfeffer, Ed Stebbins, William Stebbins, and Jon Soule. Silly’s was established by Deidre and Stephanie Nice. It was originally located at 147 Cumberland Ave and moved to its current location in 1997. Silly’s was purchased by current owner Colleen Kelley in 2002. Portland House of Pizza was founded on August 25, 1988 by Mike Orr; it was originally located two doors down from its present location on Washington Ave.
1989 – 1989 was a banner year for restaurants that have stood the test of time: Ken Ng opened Panda Garden, Dana Street opened Street & Co., Susan Eklund opened Susan’s Fish & Chips, Eddie Fitzpatrick and Mary Ledue Paine opened Pepperclub, Jiraporn Koonyosyint opened Sala Thai, and Hi Bombay!, Brea Lu Cafe, Jan Mee, Marcy’s the Armory Lounge, Vespucci’s, and Parker’s all opened their doors for the first time. ISF Trading, a export wholesaler of sea urchins to Japan, was also founded in 1989.
1990 – fish wholesaler Nova Seafood.
And here are few spots from Portland’s past that had especially long runs or are otherwise notable:
Boone’s Restaurant (1898 – 200?) you can still see the sign on Commercial Street near Ri Ra.
The Empire Restaurant (1916 – 1953) a popular Chinese restaurant that had been at the present day location of Empire Dine and Dance on the corner of Congress Street and Forest Ave. According to an article in the Press Herald was, Empire Restaurant was “one of the swankiest places in Portland to have dinner” when it first opened. Portland’s very first Chinese restaurant was opened 36 years earlier by Ar Tee Lam in 1880 on Custom House Wharf.
Zeitman’s Grocery Store (1918 – 1980) was started as a variety store by Bessie Zeitman at 443 Fore Street. In 1922 she moved the business to it’s long time location at 336 Fore Street. Mrs. Zeitman ran a variety store, lunch counter, lodging house, and cigar shop before opening a grocery store in 1953.
Roma Cafe (1924 – 2009) was opened by Dominic Marino at its original location, 489 Congress Street. In 1935 it moved to 769 Congress in the West End. The restaurant remained in the Marino family until 1985 when it was bought by Peter Landrigan, a former Hannaford Brothers VP.
Amergian Bros. (1928 – 200?) was a neighborhood market located at the corner of Chestnut and Oxford Streets. It was one of the last vestiges of Portland’s once visible and vibrant Armenian community in Bayside. The sign for the store can still be see when you drive up Chestnut towards Cumberland Ave.
Valle’s (1933 – 2000) was founded by Donald Valle in 1933. It started as a bar called Valle’s Cafe in Woodfords Corner and eventually evolved into a steak house restaurant chain that stretched from Maine to Florida. The Valle’s on Brighton Ave opened in 1960 and closed unexpectedly in 2000.
George’s Delicatessen (1934 – 1976) was run for 42 years by George Bress.
Espans Quick Lunch (1948 – 2007)
Terroni’s Market (1949 – 2011) was opened by Florence Terroni. The business changed hands in 2004 and the new owner closed the market in 2011. Sheila Cunningham worked at the market since she was 15 and had booked 44 years there by the time it had closed.
The Sportman’s Grill (1952-1999) was run by Jim, Tony and John “Sonny” Severino and John’s son Paul.
The Gaslight (196? – 19??) was run by Richard and Elizabeth DeFranco.
The Hollow Reed (1974 – 1981) was opened by Victoria Jahn, Bobbi Goodman and Frank LaTorre on February 7, 1974. It was Portland’s first vegetarian restaurant.
F. Parker Reidy’s (1976 – 2001) was located on Exchange Street adjacent to Post Office Park. It was a longtime fixture in the city dating back to the early days of the Old Port as a retail and dining destination.
Carbur’s (1977 – 1997) was founded by Richard McNeill. The sandwich shop was part of the rebirth of the Old Port and for 20 years was a mainstay eatery in the area.
Napoli (1919 – ????) Portland’s first Italian restaurant was opened by Giovanni Polito at 102 Middle Street.
Do you have some additional details about Portland’s food history to share, or corrections to some of the details posted above? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org with your additions and corrections and I’ll update the time line.
The information in this timeline comes from many many sources. Records at the Maine Historical Society and the old newspaper microfilms in the Portland Room of the Portland Public Library has been especially useful as have their very knowledgeable staff. The information on Chinese restaurants comes from Garry Libby’s 2006 article in Chinese America: History and Perspectives. Individual restaurant owners have provided details about their own establishments. The Bollard has been a very good source of information on bars and pubs.