‘Ro’ Wadanole Weatherup recalls the beginnings of what would become one of the most popular eateries in Syracuse
By Marilyn L. Pinsky
I recently was in a discussion about Italian restaurants and said that I have never had braciola as good as I remembered it at the Caroma on Lodi Street in Syracuse.
Coincidentally, I then read a 60th anniversary announcement in the newspaper about a Rosemarie and Paul Weatherup, that said Rosemarie was connected to the former Caroma restaurant. I tracked her down and we spent a fun afternoon reminiscing.
‘Ro’ Wadanole Weatherup, for those who know her, has been hiding in plain sight between Syracuse and Florida for years.
I asked her if the story I heard was accurate, that the restaurant was named for the three sisters who owned and ran the restaurant.
“That’s right,” said Weatherup. “They were Carmel [Sacco], Rose [Wadanole] and Mary D’Addario. I am the daughter of Rose.”
Weatherup recalls the beginnings of what would become one of the most popular eateries in Syracuse.
“In 1941 my grandfather got sick and the family was going to lose a building he owned across the street from the family home on Lodi Street, where typical of Italian families, one family lived upstairs, one downstairs, one in the middle. In order to keep the building, the sisters decided to open a restaurant. They were in their mid 20s at the time and the only one who knew how to cook was my Aunt Mary — the others couldn’t even boil water. My grandmother Rosina Gelormini came over and taught those girls how to cook. They each specialized, one in soups, one in baking, one in sauce dishes. When they had specialty food, the cacciatores, the scallopinis, that was all Mary. Their brother Mike worked the bar and my brother Ted also helped while he was in college.”
“My mother and her brother-in-law Sonny D’Addario were the brains of the restaurant. She and Carmel did the books at home in the basement and grandma took care of us kids while everyone was working. When the restaurant first opened, it was just on one side of the building; when I was in my teens they expanded.”
“After high school I went to college for a short time, then left and worked at First Trust. My mother insisted I go back to college because she didn’t want me to work as hard as she did, so I worked at the bank during the day, where I met my husband Paul, and went to Syracuse University night school.”
“After our son Mark was born, the restaurant needed a hostess. I went in to help out a little and 30 years later I was still there. Our schedules worked out as Paul was a football referee for 35 years and has been executive secretary of the NYS Association of Certified Football Officials now going on 50 years.”
“Anna Colaneri, another sister, also worked in the kitchen. Her daughter Connie Mazella was hostess on Wednesday and Thursday nights and I hosted Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Occasionally my sister-in-law, Mary Wadanole, would hostess on Mondays. The only Sunday we would ever open was Mother’s Day. Our father said Sunday was our family day and we would all go to church together in the morning.”
“There were so many people that were long-time friends and customers that it just felt like home. All the grandchildren spent time as busboys and Mary and Carmel’s sons went on to become doctors. Mark helped me on the floor and he is the one who learned the cooking skills from Aunt Mary; he can make anything. He and I still make sauce together in a huge pot that comes almost to my waist.”
What made the Caroma so successful?
“It was consistency; family was all over that place. I never saw a family that got along so well. And everything was made from scratch. The sauce recipe was kept in a safe and they’d make 60 gallons at least twice a week. Uncle Sonny made all the sausage and meatballs and we also made our own homemade macaroni. People would call ahead and say they’re coming in with their families and they’d pre-order special dishes and desserts. Sometimes we just couldn’t keep up.”
The Caroma was also known for their desserts. “Carmel made all the pies — the most popular being apple, followed by the red raspberry and the large variety of cream pies. All the police in Syracuse would stop in for our brownies.”
They closed on the 40th anniversary of the restaurant, Dec, 7,1981.
“It was about time the girls had a rest. They worked from early in the morning until late at night and then they’d take turns going over to put grandma to bed.”
“I love running into our former customers when we go out. All wish the Caroma would make an encore appearance.”