The owner of Agolino’s Restaurant is a content person, even though his establishment was ravished by floodwaters in 1972 and again in 2011. How can that be? It’s easy. Joe Agolino, Sr. believes he has the best kitchen staff, the best servers and, most of all, the best clients.
Family owned and operated, Agolino’s has been located on Luzerne Avenue West Pittston since 1955 when Sam Agolino, Sr. opened a pool hall a few blocks from the current establishment at 22 Luzerne Ave.
Sam purchased the property at 22 Luzerne Ave. in 1962 where, according to son Joe, Sr., five pool tables existed.
Over time, Sam’s wife Betty began to make hot dogs and hamburgers at the Agolino homestead just a few doors down from the pool hall. “My mother would make the food and we’d have to run the food over to the pool hall,” Joe, Sr. said. That was the beginning of what eventually turned out to be the premiere establishment it is today.
With the popularity of Betty’s cooking, Sam made a decision to add a kitchen in the rear of the building and to legitimize the establishment as a restaurant in the early 1970s. Soon, the pool tables were replaced by dining booths and a counter.
Brian “Buzzy” Budzak has been on the cooking staff for 29 years and has seen a lot of changes. “Volume, the volume has picked up drastically since the expansion of the dining room that was added in 1998,” Budzak said. “When I first started we would serve, on average, 80 meals at dinner time. Today, we will serve 200-300 dinners on a Saturday and as much as 600 on a Sunday.”
One such customer is Barbara Moore, of Pittston. The retired Wyoming Area teacher used to frequently accompany her late mother to Agolino’s. “It’s a great staff and great food and the prices are so reasonable. My mom loved coming here as I do,” Moore said.
The 185-seat restaurant features two dining areas and a counter area. A private room can be used for meetings, parties or small bereavement dinners up to 24 people. With the exception of the private dining room, Agolino’s does not take reservations.
Business hasn’t always been a bed of roses for the Agolino family, though. Flooding from the Susquehanna River looms over the establishment. In 1972, the first floor sustained less than a foot of water, but in 2011, the restaurant, along with the entire town of West Pittston, was devastated by Hurricane Lee.
The entire restaurant was inundated with seven feet of water, but Joe, Sr. was determined to rebuild, remodel and come back. Come back he did. Several months after the flood, Agolino’s was back in business with a new look.
Since 2011, the Agolino family acquired the parking lot across the street and the corner lot next door where a bank once stood to accommodate all customers with off-street parking. That was the final page missing in Joe Agolino’s plan. “We bought three lots that surrounded the restaurant and now we’re in good shape.”
Joe is now semi-retired, keeping his hand in the business, but he’s also ready to pass the baton to his four children, Sam, Corinne, Lisa and Joe Jr., all of whom have their place in the family business.
“They’re all (his children) set up,” Joe, Sr. said. “I’m in a very content place and I’m happy with the way it’s all transpired. I have great repeat clientel, it’s a comfortable place, it’s casual dinning and my staff is consistent that does a great job and people see that and appreciate it.”
“I couldn’t be a more lucky guy and I wish my mother and father could see how successful the business became,” Agolino concluded.
In addition to Agolino’s Restaurant in West Pittston, the family also owns Pazzo’s Restaurant on Rt. 315 and Bar Pazzo, just off the square in Scranton.
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