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Iconic Connie’s Diner re-opens in Waterloo

One of the Finger Lakes’ most iconic restaurants re-opened Tuesday, October 19th at 6:00 a.m.!  Congratulations to owners Paul and Carmen Caratozzolo on the re-opening of Connie’s diner!

Connie's Diner

Photo by Spencer Tulis, Finger Lakes Times

Fans of the popular Connie’s Diner, rejoice.

The iconic art deco eatery on East Main Street will reopen at 6 a.m. Tuesday after being closed since a fire on the night of Aug. 14. The fire started in the basement and was ruled electrical in nature.

One of those happy to learn of the reopening is Sam Cottrell of Waterloo, a longtime patron.

“I’m glad and happy they are reopening,” said the 80-year-old retiree, who lives on East William Street, a block and a half from the diner. “I was going there just about every day. They have good service, good food at reasonable prices, and everyone is so polite and nice. I will be there Tuesday for sure.”

“They treat me fine,” he said.

In addition to its home-cooked food, the diner is known for its 1950s decor and friendly wait staff wearing clothing to match that era.

On Thursday, owners Paul and Carmen Caratozzolo were working with others to finish up renovations. Both said they were very happy to be reopening after nine long weeks.

“The entire staff of 40 or so are coming back. They are incredibly loyal, and we are like a family here,” Carmen said. “They went on unemployment and are anxious to get back to serving customers.”

Customers will not notice any major changes to the interior when they return. The tile wall behind the main counter has been replaced, as has the ceiling area over the counter. There is new lighting and some new neon signs to retain the long-established interior motif.

“We gutted that wall and replaced all the plumbing and electrical behind it,” Paul said.

The iconic orange-and-turquoise seats are back, as are the ’50s-era decorations and signs, including 45 rpm records along the upper area over the windows. The old jukebox machines, which don’t work and probably never will, remain for decoration only, Paul noted.

The parts of the building customers don’t see needed a lot of work, the Caratozzolos explained.

“The basement was pretty much gutted,” Carmen said. “The fire started in a fan next to the produce cooler and spread. There was a lot of smoke and soot in the basement, so that has all been replaced.

The air-conditioning system had to be replaced, as did much of the duct work.

The brothers worked alongside other family members and work crews.

“So far, insurance has been good to us, but we’re still working with them,” Paul said.

The Caratozzolos met with diner staff about three times during the nine-week shutdown, keeping them apprised of the situation and answering questions.

As for the menu? Frequent customers can breathe easy. It’s the same.

“We want to get the door open and get back into a groove, regaining our momentum,” Carmen said. “We were having a great summer of business when the fire hit, so we’re ready to get back to it.

“The outpouring of support from customers and others has been great. Even firefighters have been incredible with offers to help.”

Among the employees coming back are longtime waitresses Betty Ann Talomie and Gloria Caratozzolo, both with 33 years of service on their résumés.

Connie’s will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday.

The restaurant was known formerly as Chick’s Diner. Connie Caratozzolo of Seneca Falls bought it in 1989. Her sons Paul and Carmen now run the business.

This article originally ran in the Finger Lakes Times on October 16, 2021.

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