Before aquiring the restaurant from the Pedeflous family, Peter and Josephine lived in a little structure at the far end of the barn on the left of the top picture.
It is possible that the company in the bottom picture was located in the hotel, as the company used the hotel address.
Thom remembers following a pipe his grandfather said was from a spring. The pipe entered the restaurant from the front, went under Mountain Boulevard and continued up Watchung Mountain to a spring.
The hotel building dates from the 1700's and the mushroom farm was thought to be the first in the state of New Jersey.
Although they loved the history of the structure that since 1971 was known as O'Connor's Beef 'n' Ale House at 708 Mountain Blvd., next-door neighbors and former owners Jeanette and Rino Ghidella, didn't approve of how the structure was preserved during the O'Connor's era. So when that structure was reduced to rubble last week, the Ghidellas said they were looking forward to seeing how their neighborhood would be improved by what will replace O'Connor's. The Ghidellas said they hoped that people would start referring to the site as not just the former O'Connor's Restaurant, but also the much older and historic Pedeflous' Restaurant and Hotel.
Robert Rose, owner of Prudential Rose Realtors, 659 Mountain Blvd., and a group of developers, won approval on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2005, from the Board of Adjustment to build 29 age-restricted condominium units on the site. No date has been set for when construction on the senior citizen facility would begin. O'Connor's, which had operated a restaurant and butcher shop in the building since 1971, served its last meals and beverages on Friday, Dec. 23, 2005. Since then, the structure had remained empty, pending demolition. The empty building had been used this fall by the Watchung Fire Department for training drills.
Depression-Era Owners Mr. Ghidella's parents, Peter and Josephine Ghidella, bought Pedeflous' Restaurant and Hotel in 1933 from John Pedeflous. He was the son of Henry Pedeflous, who had owned it dating back to 1888. A photograph of the elder Ghidella couple and three other photos about Pedeflous' Restaurant appear in the 'Images of America: Watchung' book, published in 2001 by Arcadia Publishing of Charleston, S.C.
Rino Ghidella was just 10-years-old when his family bought the building and the business. The restaurant remained in the Ghidella family as Pedeflous' Restaurant until 1953, being owned and operated first by Mr. Ghidella's parents until 1948, and then by his sister, Elda Vanola, and her husband, Peter, until 1953.
There were a number of owners and uses for the building between 1953 and 1971. The structure was thought to have dated back even before Henry Pedeflous owned it. It was thought to have been a popular stagecoach stop on the way from New York to Philadelphia, and points south and west. From 1933 to 1948, the Ghidellas lived on the second and third floors in space that had once been the hotel part of the operation.
Mr. Ghidella still has the original sign from the side of the building that announced it as the 'Pedeflous Hotel.' The Ghidellas also have other artifacts and pieces of art saved from their time while owning the restaurant, including china, paintings, and restored lamps and furniture. Mrs. Ghidella, an art collector, has several pieces of 'Theorem' paintings that were typically completed by young women just out of finishing schools at the turn of the century from the 1800s to the 1900s. One of the pieces includes a china cup whose blue-on-white pattern is remarkably similar to the pattern of the Pedeflous' Restaurant china. She also has several oil paintings done by one of Henry Pedeflous daughters, Anna, that originally hung in the restaurant and depict scenes that might well have been Watchung during the horse and buggy era.
As a fine dining room, Pedeflous' Restaurant was known for its dishes prepared with fresh mushrooms. They were grown in the cellars of a mushroom barn, which was said to run parallel to Mountain Boulevard, west of the restaurant. The land on which the restaurant stood was once a seven-acre lot that has since been subdivided into the space for the former restaurant and three residences, including the one that the Ghidellas moved into in 1948. The restaurant was known to have been a mecca for celebrity customers, including actress Mae West, the comedy team, Laurel and Hardy, and boxer Jack Dempsey, among many others. According to the Ghidellas, the Paramount Theater on Second Street, Plainfield, was very popular, and patrons would often take in a show there and eat the house favorite, 'Steak and Mushrooms' at Pedeflous' Restaurant.
The Ghidellas have menus from the time they owned the restaurant showing the 'Regular Dinner' of 'Half Broiled Chicken with Mushrooms,' complete with potatoes, salad and desert, for $1, regular dinner of 'Broiled Steak with Mushrooms' for $1.25, and 'Italian Dinner' of 'Spaghetti with Meat Sauce and Chicken Caciatora' for $1.50. Another menu for a New Year's Eve special featured three-course meal of 'Steak with Mushrooms' for $2.
The Ghidellas said the building that was demolished last week didn't resemble the way it kept up during its heyday as Pedeflous' Restaurant, either when their family owned it or before. 'We love old things and things that are preserved, but that wasn't preserved,' said Mr. Ghidella. 'It was chopped up. It didn't resemble the place when we lived there.' Plus, they welcome the change that will come to their neighborhood with the arrival of the senior center. 'There are so many little children around,' said Mrs. Ghidella. 'It's good to see the liquor license leave the neighborhood. It will be safer for kids playing in the area.' Plus, they feel senior citizens condominiums are preferable to what might have been another alternative, a cluster of retail stores. Still, the Chidellas said just like everyone else, they will miss seeing the old familiar structure that, in their case, they use to see everyday for 58 years from their kitchen window, and that Mr. Ghidella, himself, lived in for 15 years. 'One thing I will miss,' said Mrs. Ghidella,' is that butcher shop and those delicious steaks. It was a beautiful butcher shop.'
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