A Pittston legend

It felt strange last night to not say to my wife, “Let’s run down to The Gramercy.”
The Gramercy is a charming restaurant serving authentic Italian, or perhaps more appropriately Sicilian food on South Main St., Pittston. It’s been in the same location for more than 80 years.
We’re at The Gramercy often, my wife and I. Sometimes as often as once a week. I typically order the same thing: shells in tomato sauce with sausage and peas. Yes, peas. The Gramercy might be the only place in America – certainly the only place around here – where you can get peas in your pasta sauce. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me.
My wife will “shop around” the menu, sometimes going for pasta with broccoli rabe and white beans, other times indulging in clams posillipo or cod Sicilian or even pasta con sardia. That’s pasta with sardines and fennel. Also one of my favorites.
Neither of us ever leave room for dessert but that does not stop us from ordering a slice of spumoni to share.
But on Tuesday, and surely tonight and possibly not the rest of the week, there’ll be no pasta and peas for me, no white beans for Mary Kay, no spumoni to share. The Gramercy was closed Tuesday and perhaps for the next few days as well. The Gramercy is in mourning. Actually, all of Greater Pittston is.
Michael I. Augello, founder, along with his brother Sam, of The Gramercy in 1938, passed away last Friday, less than two weeks away from his 101st birthday. No one lives forever, but we all hoped Mr. Augello would. That was the theme at his viewing Tuesday night. Even though he was 100 years old, we weren’t ready to lose him.
It was not until very recently that we would not see him at the restaurant. He continued working right up until his 100th year, continued making his homemade sausage, the sausage that would be crumbled over my pasta and peas, well into his 90s.
Mr. Augello epitomized the rich Italian heritage still prevalent in Pittston. He was devoted to his family, his God and his customers.
My friend Jack Smiles wrote about Mr. Augello in November when he was honored by the Greater Pittston YMCA, where he had been a member for 80 years. When Jack asked Mr. Augello the secret to his longevity, he said, “Faith, family and fitness,” and then quickly added, “and Gramercy sauce.”
In that article, Jack described The Gramercy as having “an old world vibe.” We’re missing that vibe this week, but we’ll be back soon, celebrating the life of Mr. Augello with his son, Michael, who runs the restaurant along with his wife Mary Pat, and his other children, Judge Joseph Augello and Diane Collins, and his grandchildren, who often pop in.
We’ll be eating Gramercy sauce and hoping it does for us what it did for Mr. Augello.

Ed Ackerman