Along with sharing the same blood, fathers and sons sometimes devote their lives to chasing after the same dream.
As a gritty, motivated Italian immigrant in the prime of his youth, Peter Costanzo started a small bar with a pool table at 498 Factory St. called Pete's in 1932 after Prohibition ended — the first establishment in the city to sell alcohol.
In 1970 — 38 years later — Thomas P. Costanzo was handed the keys to Pete's Restaurant, where he has continued his father's legacy for the past 42 years.
When Mr. Costanzo officially retires in September, a long chapter in Watertown's history will come to an end. The restaurant will be purchased by Geoff Puccia, who's now the chef at the Italian-American Civic Association on Bellew Avenue.
Pete's Restaurant, which moved from Factory Street to its current spot at 111 Breen Ave. in 1985, has long been a social nucleus in the city that visitors often say reminds them of the television comedy “Cheers.”
“I've always heard that it resembles the show, because everyone knows each other here,” the 68-year-old owner said. “It's a little older crowd here, and people who move from the city always come back to say hello.”
What has made Pete's Restaurant weather the test of time? Was it the all-you-can-eat spaghetti Mondays started in the 1970s, at which families could fill their stomachs with plate after plate for $4 a person? Or was it the legendary “Ralph's” chicken wings that are oven-baked to lend the perfect crunch?
The famous Italian food may have lured people in the doors, but Mr. Costanzo said the restaurant's success was, and still is, made by familiar faces in town that light up the atmosphere.
“I've always liked being around people here, and that's what I'm going to miss,” he said, adding that he got his start working at his father's restaurant as a teenager. “I've been in this business all my life and am a hands-on person that never wanted to take a break. Retiring is going to be a major change.”
Although he doesn't like to be compared with his father, Mr. Costanzo said they both made a habit of putting in long hours at the restaurant. In his heyday, he'd work from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. seven days a week.
“My dad was tougher than I am,” he said with a laugh. “He was 80 years old and still coming to the restaurant every day.”
Open-heart surgery after a heart attack in 2002 has slowed him down a bit, but it's obvious his passion for the restaurant still flows through his veins. After all, the restaurant has been the backdrop of a lifetime full of memories.
Business at the restaurant began to boom when Mr. Costanzo added pizza to the menu in the 1980s, and two jeeps were purchased for delivery seven days a week.
Giving back to the community also has been at the core of the restaurant's mission. Making an emergency trip to Samaritan Medical Center after stepping on a nail, Mr. Costanzo was moved by seeing dozens of sick children, and the restaurant began delivering free pizzas in the 1980s to young people with serious illnesses.
“That went on for years and we gave away thousands of pizzas,” he said. Paying homage to the program, the Jefferson County Medical Society gave its annual award to the restaurant in the 1980s.
The texture of Watertown evolved in the late 1980s with the birth of Fort Drum, Mr. Costanzo said, spurring the launch of a flurry of new businesses along the Arsenal Street beltway. But the restaurant still maintained its local identity.
Whether it's local diners such as Ralph Marzano — for whom the chicken wings were named — or Lt. Gen. Paul G. Cerjan, a former commanding officer at Fort Drum whom he befriended in 1986, the restaurant has always been populated by Mr. Costanzo's friends.
That's why when he leaves the restaurant for the final time this fall, it will feel saying farewell to his home. The privilege of carrying on his father's legacy has brought too much joy to put into words.
“My father and I were both 'people persons' who loved what we did,” he said. “I never cringed when I got up in the morning because I always loved coming to work.”