Guy Bonfatto (1894-1960) from Raccuia, Messina, Sicily / Immigrated 1910
Pauline Bonfatto (1899-1987) from Raccuia, Messina, Sicily / Immigrated 1916
Married October 9, 1917
Guy opened a confectionary and grocery store in South Renovo Circa 1912. He closed in 1917 to serve in the U.S. Army during WWI. Upon his completion of duty, Guy & Pauline opened a grocery and produce store on August 15, 1919 in the Bush Arcade in downtown Bellefonte. Besides retail and wholesale sales, Guy also made door-to-door deliveries of produce to residences. It was the beginning of quality products and service!
Guy was a very industrious person and a hard worker, and was determined to offer to customers the best products available. To do so, and to be sure the very best was always offered, he handpicked the merchandise they would offer their customers. He traveled to the Pittsburgh and Baltimore markets, personally inspected the produce, and brought it back to Bellefonte in his own truck, and the excellence began! They soon became well known for their quality produce and service, and the business grew and prospered!
Pauline worked in the store, serving customers, keeping records, doing the billing. She was warm hearted and thoroughly enjoyed serving the public. People often commented what a joy she was with her smiling face and her cheery, friendly manner. Guy and Pauline had 9 children – 3 of them died at birth. The six children - Mary, Josephine, John Francis, Annette and Rose helped in the family business.
Guy and Pauline operated the business until Guy’s untimely and sudden death in January 1960. Pauline was active in the business long after she “retired”, and was in the store daily until an illness forced her to stop working in May 1987. She passed away November 18, 1987.
In 1958 John Bonfatto created the BONANZA SUB SANDWICH. In the beginning there was one variety (Original-Italian), and two sizes, 8” & 16”. The 8” Bonanza Sub sold for $.35, the 16” for $.65. As popularity of the Bonanza Sub grew, other varieties were added. In later years the sizes were changed to 6”, 12”, and 18”. The name “BONAZA”, referring to a sub, was registered as a trademark by John in 1963. The Bonanza Sub made Bonfatto’s famous for quality food and quick service at a reasonable price ... and the excellence continued!
Brothers Francis and John Bonfatto assumed the daily duties of the business after their father’s death and worked very hard to establish it as a landmark business. They began to evolve from grocery and produce to prepared ready-to-eat foods. In 1965 John remolded a building at the rear of the store for selling pizza, and later added cheese steak sandwiches, hamburgers, fries, spaghetti, and a host of other sandwiches and meals “to go”. In 1970 further expansion occurred when a bar, “The Bellefonte Grille”, was acquired. In 1974 a restaurant was opened in the same building as the Grille, which was next to the store, and a new level of excellence began!
In 1978 a devastating fire destroyed the store and pizza shop. Rebuilding and consolidation then took place ad resulted in today’s structures. In 1980 Bonfatto’s became BONFATTO’S, INC. with Pauline, John, Francis and Mary as officers of the new corporation.
On January 1, 1990 David Letterman, grandson of Guy and Pauline (Rose’s son) became the third generation to join the family business. He established a second Bonfatto’s location in State College in August 5, 1991. He also expanded the business when he established Bonfatto’s Complete Catering Services, which specializes in business meetings, picnic, theme parties, wedding receptions, and any other occasion. Again the excellence grew!
On July 15, 1999, David, along with his wife, Sherri, committed themselves in carrying out the tradition of excellence by becoming third generation owners of Bonfatto’s, Inc.
On November 25, 2000, the biggest expansion of the business occurred when David and Sherri opened Bonfatto’s Restaurant and Lounge on Bishop Street in Bellefonte. This modern facility quickly has become the talk of the town. With seating capacity of 130, a full beautiful bar, expanded menu, and drive-up window, and great food and atmosphere, Guy and Pauline would be proud. And the excellence continues to grow!
JOHN BONFATTO started to make the Bonanza 0ctober 1958. The idea came from reading about a student making sandwiches while he was in college, JOHN thinks Conn. or N.Y. Since we had a grocery store and a small storage room this would be a good place to start. He started with a slicer and a refrigerator and counters to make the sandwich. At this time Millers was making Hoagies and had a trade mark, so he had to have a different name. (The name came about from Pat Gallager who made signs for the business and he had a picture of the air plane Bonanza, he suggested that BONANZA would be a good name since it did not conflict with Hoagies or subs at that time.) So he named it Bonanza because it was also part of our name and this was also before the show Bonanza was on TV. JOHN went around a few places not in town to order a sandwich and watched their sandwich being made and were called subs. Then JOHN saw a 16 inch sandwich being made, and JOHN thought this is the size to make since sandwiches were 8 inches.
JOHN went to Angelo Pacifico (Pacifico Bakery in Altoona.) Angelo was an elderly gentleman and said he never made rolls that size (16 inches) but would try and send John a few samples to see if they were alright. That was the start of making large rolls at Pacifico's. Angelo would be the grandfather of those who have the bakery now. This was before Angelo had delivery trucks out of town. Marhoefer Bakery from Altoona would deliver the rolls since they came to Bellefonte every day. (The driver of Marhoefer truck would pick them up from Pacificos.)
The meat and ingredients were from the different sandwiches being made were JOHN observed them making the subs and decided what type of meat and cheese to use.
Some things were tried over the years. The sizes were changed to 9” and 18”, and then a 6” size was added in 1990. Still later in the 90’s the 9” was dropped and the 12” was added. In 2007 the sizes were changed back to the original 8” and 16”.
At one time we had 32 different varieties of the Bonanza Sub (to mimic Basket and Robbins). Some of the more interesting ones were: Original & Cheese Steak, Pizza Burger, Seafood, and Taco.
There is not an official record of the number of Bonanza Subs we have sold. But since 1958 it is safe to say that we are into the fourth generation of Bonanza eaters. Numerous times we have made our Bonanza Subs to go on trips to people that have moved out of town. Customers will bring in their cooler and tell us to make as many that we can fit into it. We have even sent them overnight to different states for birthdays, mother day, get well, tailgates with rival football teams (Michigan, Ohio State and USC), and homesick (vacuumed sealed to Guam); All and all about 15 different States, including Hawaii.
A story told to me from someone that was sending some to their sister who was battling an illness and needed a pick-me up:
A few years back she had some packaged for an airplane trip (pre 9/11) to visit her brother in New Orleans. When she opened the overhead compartment one of the passengers said, “You brought subs from Bonfatto’s didn’t you? I used to go there when I was a student at PSU. I haven’t had one in years, but there is no mistaking the smell. Will you sell me one?” The woman laughed and said, “If I did that my family would never forgive me.” To which he replied, “I’ll give you $50 for one”. She didn’t accept his offer, but in the end she parted with one.
The popularity is more than local, it is international: A couple, Bill and Nancy Conners, went to Italy this past year. The happened into a small café in Volterra. They were having a conversation with the owner Sergio, when they got around to talking about Penn State, he reached behind the counter and pulled out a Bonanza Sub Bag! Turns out the owner is Sergio Bonfato (correct spelling of my grandfather last name), a cousin of mine! Small world!
Wing Sauce: Bonfatto's Original Wing Sauce
Dessert Sauce: Bonfatto's Razz Hab
Verde: Bonfatto’s Hoppy Verde 2 U (FIRST PLACE)
Bonfatto’s won the 2007 Wing King title at WingFest and has won four consecutive years at the Blue & White Wing Fest since it began in 2008. In addition, in 2011, Letterman submitted his sauces to the Fiery Food Challenge competition in Texas. Out of 750 entries from around the country, Bonfatto’s Apple Pepper Jack and Fire-in-the-Hole each received a third place, and the Original Buffalo and RazzHab earned the Golden Chili Award.
Bonfatto's Wing Sauce & Marinade - Apple Pepper Jack (FIRST PLACE)
Bonfatto's Wing Sauce & Marinade - Fire In The Hole (Both HOT and SAVORY wins)