A Neighborhood Favorite
(For Feb. 18 Fairfield Citizen News)
By Mike Lauterborn
It was the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, skies were overcast and snowbanks all around were frozen and gray. The morning called for a setting that would immediately thaw a fed-up-with-winter demeanor. Andros Diner and Restaurant at 651 Villa Avenue seemed like a good candidate.
With its Art Deco-style décor of chrome trim, neon lights, and booths and stools with raspberry and pastel green color schemes, the 3,000-square-foot diner has been an area anchor since 1972.
Greeting me at the door was owner Leo Pertesis, 60, who gave some background about the place and spoke about its dynamic. “It was originally owned by me and my three brothers – four families in all. The four became 20 and we all branched off around town. I remained with this location.”
He said that there were two houses and a shoe store on the site originally. “We bought the property, knocked the structures down and built the restaurant. Where Super Stop ‘n Shop is now was then Pantry Pride, there was a Topps clothing store and Kohl’s was Caldor’s. The area’s always been a business section, just the names have changed. We’re about the only ones that haven’t changed.”
The diner has enjoyed long-time fans, said Andros. “Customers that came in as children come to see us now as adults with their own families.” As we spoke at the front register, Leo greeted by name nearly every customer that stepped up to settle their tab.
One of those was Gary Zingo, 64. “As a young kid, my dad used to take me to the Bridgeport Y to swim, and then, after, we’d go to Uncle Bill’s Diner where Leo got his start as a cook. When he opened up this diner, we just moved over. Now I live in Florida and, whenever I am in town, we always make sure to stop in, reminisce and have some good food. My two children now come in here with their own families.”
Andros said customers are from all walks of life. “We get musicians, artists, retirees, politicians, young families. They like the casual friendly atmosphere. You can eat anything from eggs to surf and turf any time of the day. We’re open 24 hours, about one of the only ones in town that do that. People begin and end their day here.”
As to popular dishes, which are all reasonably priced, Andros said those include dinner platters, Eggs Benedict, Greek and Italian specialties, steaks and chops. All baking is done on the premises.
Mark Resko, 67, seated at a counter, was another fan. “I’ve been coming here every weekday for 25 years to meet friends for breakfast. I also come over by myself on weekends. My business, MCI Security Systems, is right nearby. The food is consistently good and Leo, Maria, Johnny and Tony treat their patrons as if they were family.”
Settled into a booth with his wife Caroline, Len Benton, 73, was yet another veteran of the diner. “I’ve known Leo and his family since the early 60s and have been coming here since he opened. I’ve got 12 brothers and two sisters and all of them have come here, too, over the years. We always order the Caroline Omelet, named after my wife – egg whites, spinach, lettuce and tomato. It’s a good healthy dish – my wife’s a health freak.”
The Benton’s usual waitress, Cindy Nishball, 44, said regulars like the couple give her a reason to come to work. “I like the camaraderie. We have fun.”
Spoons clinked on plates, good folks streamed in and out, and kitchen doors swung back and forth as orders and empty dishes went in and steaming hot platefuls of food came out.
It was hard to leave this warm blanket of an eatery but further Man About Town adventures called.