Bruno Sacchetti remembers the apprehension that came with his new job in March 1980.
Sacchetti and his wife, Lucy, had just purchased the Peter Pause restaurant on Nott Street — an Italian-American diner located between Foster Avenue and Carrie Street. Construction worker Bruno didn’t know much about the business, and wondered if customers would keep coming.
Sacchetti didn’t have to worry. People who visited for late-morning bacon and eggs and early-afternoon ziti and meatballs kept Peter Pause on their schedules.
“People didn’t even know there were different owners,” Sacchetti said.
Now the Sacchettis are giving their business and customers an extended farewell. Their last official day as owners was last Friday; they are staying at their kitchen and grill posts for the next several days as new owner Dean Plakas learns routines and recipes.
“It’s been a lot of fun, a lot of hard work,” said Bruno Sacchetti, who said health concerns are one reason for his retirement. “I met some wonderful, wonderful customers. … I’m going to miss it, but I’m going to be coming around.”
Sacchetti, who emigrated from Italy’s Abruzzo region with Lucy in 1967 and now lives in Guilderland, joked that his personality was one reason people kept stopping in for breakfast and lunch. “I’m a very funny person, a very kind person,” he said. “And the food, it’s always been everything. Everything is home cooking.”
Lucy Sacchetti was at first unsure about buying and running a restaurant. In 1980, she and her husband were in their 20s and raising two small children. Peter Pause, first opened in 1958 by the late Angeline and Prosper Attanasio, became a big part of their lives.
The place has changed little over the years. (Bruno Sacchetti believes the restaurant’s name was based on an original owner’s nickname.) There are nine black stools in front of the light green counter, and a homey ambience that comes with wood paneling, circular ceiling lights and 12 small tables — some with two chairs, others with four.
People have counted on chicken parmigiana sandwiches for $6.25, cheeseburgers for $2.50, western omelettes for $6.75 and other big plates every Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m.
The loyal customer base includes politicians, lawyers, police officers and local business owners.
“Why wait?” Lucy said of retirement. “We’re 62 now. We want to enjoy life a little bit. This is hard work, no question about it. If you love it, you put all your heart and soul into it — that’s what we did. We breathed this place, we lived this place, we were constantly here. … I will miss the customers, but not the work. Thirty-four years is a long time.”
Assemblyman James Tedisco, R-Glenville, knows the Sacchettis’ business.
“Peter Pause restaurant was as close to homemade Italian fare as you can get,” Tedisco said in an email. “One of the few restaurants you can carry on a conversation with the people at your table and with one three tables away because you were in such close proximity.”
Tedisco recalls the restaurant as a good-sized, at-home Italian kitchen. “Great fare, from greens and beans to sausage-and-pepper sandwiches,” he said. “Soul food for politicians, public servants, the working man and Union College students.”
Customers in the restaurant Monday offered positive reviews. Among them were eight retired Schenectady City School District music teachers, meeting for a monthly breakfast session.
“The food is terrific,” said Linden Gregory of Niskayuna. “The chicken parmigiana and the pancakes.”
“It’s an opportunity to support a local business,” added Con Kuchay of Schenectady.
Karen and Pat Popolizio, who own the Waters Edge Lighthouse in Glenville, were in for the chicken pastina soup. “We’re here to congratulate Bruno on his retirement,” said Pat Popolizio. “Is it OK to say that?”
“Yes,” Bruno said. “I hope it lasts long.”
“And Lucy, too,” added Karen Popolizio.
Paul Ungerland of Rexford has been a customer since the mid-1980s. He doesn’t expect any changes behind the counter. “It should be a smooth change,” he said. “They’re going to be here, so everything goes smoothly. They’re giving them the recipes, so they should stay the same.”
New owner Plakas, co-owner of Newest Lunch on Albany Street, will run the business with his fiancee, Amie Phillips. He said Peter Pause will stay just the way it is; he’ll keep nine employees on the job.
“It just reminds me of the business I grew up in,” he said. “My family owned and ran Newest Lunch for as long as I can remember. They’re just such similar styles. It’s like a throwback — there’s not many places like this left where you could walk in and feel like you’re at your grandparents’ house.”
Plakas is not going to tamper with a successful formula.
“We don’t intend to change anything at all, from the employees to the recipes to the decor,” he said. “I don’t want to change anything because I don’t think I could do it better than they did. They’ve done it masterfully for so long. I just want to do it the way they do it.”
Lucy Sacchetti has made one change herself. She has taken down some family photos that used to decorate the walls — some with daughter Maria and son Paul, who used to peel potatoes at the restaurant. “That ripped my heart apart,” she said. “I had my children’s pictures there and now it looks very bare.”
Robert Aronstein of Schenectady, a music teacher at Central Park International Magnet School, has been coming to Peter Pause for more than 20 years.
“I always run into people I know here,” he said. “A community hangout for sure.”
Aronstein said he always orders the specials at Peter Pause; on Monday, the featured plate was spaghetti and mushrooms for $6.95. He was glad to hear Plakas — with his Newest Lunch connection — is one of the new faces in the operation.
“That’s my other hangout,” he said. “Now they’ll be getting money off me five days a week.”