CHALMETTE, La. - The popular Chalmette restaurant that burned down three months ago had hoped to reopen Tuesday but said it will be another couple of weeks.
On the verge of reopening, however, Tuesday was a special day for the family-owned restaurant as it was honored by the St. Bernard Parish Council.
“Betsy, Camille, Katrina and now this spontaneous combustion fire they had here. That just shows their loyalty and dedication they have here to St. Bernard Parish,” noted St. Bernard Councilman Nathan Gorbaty.
One woman still there today, has been through it all. “Since we opened in 1965, I been here. And I work every day,” said 86-year-old owner Leonorda Gioe. “No taking vacation, no taking a day off.”
Known in her Italian family and in the community as “Nana,” Gioe has seen the restaurant through those many tragedies with her brother Rocky and her husband Carlo, the original owners who came from Italy.
"My brother passed away two years ago. My husband passed away 16 years ago, and I got part of the business," said Gioe.
On Tuesday, the St. Bernard Parish Council awarded Rocky’s son Tommy Tommasseo with the first “Business of the Month” award for the parish.
"People see Rocky and Carlo's come back like they do, they want to follow in their footsteps,” noted Gorbaty. “A lot of businesses have come back to St. Bernard. Don't get me wrong it's not what it used to be, but we're working in that direction to get there."
St. Bernard resident Val Landry is one of the customers who can’t wait for the restaurant to return. "They rebuilt everything, everything was all brand new. And then having this accidental fire, it was just really, really another blow to them,” Landry said. “But they're resilient, they will come back bigger and better than ever."
Tommasseo said insurance has paid for virtually all the fire damage but he believes the business lost about $100 thousand in profit during the last three months. He expects it to reopen in two weeks, predicting the latest date possible to be June 1.
Meantime, Nana is ready to greet customers again with a smile, "This is our place, our heart, we open it here with a heart when we reopen it," she said.