WALLINGFORD — As party-goers end another year at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, the future of the banquet hall is unknown as owner Jim Zandri transitions into retirement.
Zandri, 65, said Tuesday before the annual New Year’s Eve celebration that he’s winding down events at the hall, which will stay open through 2020, to focus on the catering business.
The banquet hall, 1074 S. Colony Road, can seat about 400 people and has been used for weddings, proms and other parties since it opened in November 1979. At 6,000 square feet, the hall takes up half of the 12,000-square-foot, one-story building.
“I’ve been here 41 years and I catered with my father before we built the building,” Zandri said.
The catering business evolved from the downtown grocery store that Zandri’s maternal grandfather, Silvio Bergamini, ran on Quinnipiac Street.
A butcher, Bergamini emigrated from Italy in 1914 and worked out of a truck peddling groceries before opening Bergamini’s Market in 1939.Catering picks up
Jim Zandri’s father, Geno Zandri Sr., came into the picture after World War II. He married Silvio’s daughter, Anita, and worked at the family store and was active in the Italian and ethnic clubs in town, serving food at their parties since the 1950s.
As the grocery store faded due to the rise of supermarkets by about 1965, the catering business picked up. Geno Zandri Sr.’s business partner was Tranquillo Casagrande, who was married to his wife Anita’s sister Alba.
Jim Zandri, owner of Zandri's Stillwood Inn, on Dec. 31 2019. | Bailey Wright, Record-Journal
“In the ’70s, that’s all we did was cater, but not in our own place,” Zandri said. “Mostly in clubs. My father wanted to have his own place, so he started buying parcels of land where we are now.”
It’s undetermined whether he will retain or sell the building and site, since there are four family partners who own the property, he said.
Customers and staff shouldn't worry, he added.
“The business will continue on catering,” he said. “This is not closing tomorrow. There’s a lot more to come.”Other halls
Other area banquet halls have either closed or may change use.
Villa Capri, at 906 N. Colony Road, closed in 2016 and was demolished to make way for a Cumberland Farms convenience store and gas station, which opened the following year.
In North Haven, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a plan to replace the Fantasia banquet hall, 404 Washington Ave., with apartments. North Haven Planning officials said Thursday that no building permits have been filed regarding the property.