Tuesday, December 4, 2012

They bulldozed my memories this week......

          I'm not one to live in the past...much.  This week, however, even knowing the inevitable outcome of an impending event, it still struck me a little deeper than expected.  This blog is about my history with a place that met it's end this week.

The lot last week
     I remember it first as Caruso's Restaurant.  I had a telephone sitting job at the home of the local funeral director (that could be a blog in itself), and he and his wife were regulars there.  Frequently I'd see the name and number on the chalkboard and wonder what the place was like. A few years later, I have a vague recollection of helping my brother Aquaman direct cars into their lot for an annual event near Kershaw Park.  Aquaman worked at the Colonial Inn down the street and if the restaurants didn't have shared ownership, they must have occasionally shared staff.  Truth be told, I'd spend more time at the Colonial Inn drinking beers on "Nickel Night" than ever eating at Caruso's, because around that time,they moved away from being a restaurant to strictly a party house.  They did that as well as they did the restaurant and that didn't stop me from dancing the night away there just a few years after that, with a girl who still had that "New Wife" smell.

     Caruso's opened in 1930 and moved later to what we now call Lakeshore Drive. Then it was simply called Lake Street.  Caruso's was named for Enrico Caruso, an Italian tenor, and it was just as classy as he
was back in the day.  What might be considered gaudy now, the place was gilded in gold with heavy curtains, a drop tiled ceiling and a long serpentine bar built into the west end of the restaurant.  In its prime it was difficult to get a reservation there on a Saturday night and the bar was 3 deep with people most weekends.  Classic cocktails, once common then, and never served now, flowed across it's length like water cascading over Niagara Falls. I'm told it had the distinction of being the longest bar in the State for a number of years.  Not a bad accomplishment, being able to fill the longest bar in the State, 3 people deep, is it?  It spoke to both the success of the restaurant and the need for such a place at that time in Canandaigua's history.  The Cusimano family that opened the place had the best reputation for homemade Italian food, served at Depression era prices, by loving family members in a beautiful lakefront setting. That's more than the trifecta of things that you have to get right to operate a great restaurant, and it's no wonder it's remembered so fondly by so many, even after all this time. 

     In searching for information on it, I came across the minutes of the Cdga Rotary Club from last year, and one of their long standing members mentioned how great it was in his recollections to the group.  Another
blogger from Rochester (In pursuit of Quietness) reminisces about her trip there in 1958 on Mother's Day and how her father made it a special occasion place for them.  She remembers it as being "fancy".  I suspect that if you polled the senior citizen's of Cananadaigua, the ones that grew up locally, every one, would have fond memories of both the place and the food.  I know I do, and I really remember it best as a party house.  The Fargo family would convert it to The Lakeshore House, Cdga's premier party house in the 80's and for the next 25 years hosted more events there than any other Cdga venue.  I attended lunches there when I was a Kiwanis member and countless members of my class had their wedding receptions there, my own included.  A classmate, Robin, tells me that I attended our 10th class reunion there too, but you couldn't prove it by me.  She says we sang "American Pie" together, but frankly that doesn't narrow down the location, crowd, or decade for me.  I'll just have to trust that she is correct.  She's not the only woman in my life who corrects me either, the one I took to our wedding reception at the Lakeshore House does that too. 

     We were married at St. Mary's Church, but we celebrated that day at the Lakeshore House.  The Rolls Royce pulled into the covered portico that ran along the east side of the party house and we disembarked to
I got the better deal, just look at her.
greet the 150 family and friends that attended.  No reception runs completely smoothly and this was the first time our two big families really met, but we avoided a brawl, in spite of my sister Hummingbird's constant inadvertent kicking of my new Father in Law's shins during dinner.  The Lakeshore House was known for many dishes including pasta and chicken, but I remember the Seafood Newburg the most. One of their long time chefs later opened up Pepper's Restaurant in Cdga and most recently Timmy G's in Penn Yan and I've never had a bad meal in either of those places either.  It speaks to the calibre of employee that the Lakeshore House had too.  Since we had picked the attendees, the music, the formal wear and the date, it was kind of tough not to enjoy the reception, and enjoy it I did.  My wife likes to tell the story of me singing at the top of my lungs as she drove all the way to Niagara on the Lake where we honeymooned.  I like to tell the story of what I did when I got there, but this blog needs to keep it's PG rating, so I'll tell that one in person.  Back on point, that day will always remain with me as the best day of my life and I couldn't have created a better place to have celebrated it than the Lakeshore House. 

     I'll finish, maybe not as expected, but with hope for that parcel.  I think we can share wonderful memories of a location, but allow for the fact that time does march on.  Business models from then don't necessarily work today, but that's not to say you can't create a place that will be equally as memorable for the coming generations.   That's up to the developers, and I wish them well.  Make it good enough and you'll have my business again, you see, I have a history with that place.   


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I also had my reception there, the memory lasted even if the marraige didn't. It was one of a kind.