A Bellefonte staple is back at new location
The Bonfatto name is a longstanding one among Centre County’s revolving door of restaurants and specialty food shops. The brand began in 1919, founded by Guy and Pauline Bonfatto. Now, in its 100th year, their grandson, David Letterman, is at the helm and he’s taking Bonfatto’s Italian Market & Corner Cafe to new heights and uncharted territory with a new location in downtown Bellefonte.
The 401 W. High St. location is a far departure from the previous locations over the last century, including the most recent Bonfatto’s iteration on Zion Road, which Letterman and his wife, Sherri, opened in 2000. After closing the Zion Road location in December, Bonfatto’s had its soft opening of the new outpost this week, following months of remodels.
Letterman calls it “a totally new concept and new direction,” though he assures longtime fans that the brand’s legendary bonanza subs, invented by Letterman’s uncle John in 1958, are still available.
“This is something different; (it’s) very, very different from not only any place that I’ve ever been involved with, but any place that’s around here. This reminds you of a small, Italian market. We have a nice line, which we’re continuing to grow, of authentic Italian and imported retail, deli and cheese items, items you would think of (finding in) South Philly or the Strip District in Pittsburgh, not items you’re going to find in grocery stores,” Letterman said.
The coffee is also authentic. Customers order espressos and cappuccinos from a hand-operated espresso machine similar to what you’d see in any Italian cafe. Your average Keurig cup of joe, this is not. Letterman notes it “takes a little bit of skill to use” the machine.
The dining menu is now smaller, with more healthy alternatives, including a line of smoothies, customizable to customers’ dietary needs.
Bonfatto’s design (the work of Sherri Letterman) and atmosphere also received a reboot. The walls feature local artists, with artwork on display and for purchase, rotating different artists throughout the year. The atmosphere is more interactive and service-oriented.
“It’s service like it’s meant to be,” Letterman said. “(It’s) service like I remember (from) when I was younger.”
The one thing Letterman kept the same over the move? The people he surrounds himself with; he brought 10 or so former staff members with him on this next stage in his entrepreneurial journey.
Since the soft opening, Letterman said that “everybody has had nothing but positive things to say. They’ve loved the look of (the new location) and the feel. The food is coming out great. It’s been a very positive experience.”
The experience has been a “very long and hard road,” Letterman said.
“I’ve been down here every day working with the contractors,” he said. “It’s been such a big project. ... There’s been a lot of worrying and sleepless nights, and a lot of planning. Just seeing everything finally come together is great.”
Now, Letterman turns his attention to the Bonfatto’s Italian Market & Corner Cafe grand opening, April 26–28. Keep your eye on the Bonfatto’s Facebook page for more information leading up to the event.