Niagara Gazette

December 8, 2013

CITY DESK: Missing Mom's already

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Here's all you need to know about Jim Catanese and his staff at Mom's Family Restaurant:

Several weeks ago, when my parents were visiting the area with a large contingent of family members, including my cousins from Florida and Pittsburgh, they tried to grab a bite to eat at a popular chain restaurant on Military Road.

When they arrived, the staff informed them that it would be at least an hour before they could accommodate such a large group. 

I had mentioned Mom's as a possible stop to my dad earlier in the day so he took his crew over to the popular restaurant in the Mil-Pine Plaza.

Sure enough, Catanese and the folks at Mom's took care of them — all of them — as it turns out in a very friendly and memorable way. 

My dad said my aunts and cousins raved about the food and generally enjoyed the down-home feel of the place. 

My parents, who had never been to Mom's before, have since returned for dinner and, of course, pie. 

As Catanese said in our story last week about the pending closure of the popular local eatery, to those in the know — both near and far — Mom's has become something of a Niagara Falls institution of eating, one of those must-visit spots rivaling Viola's Subs, the Como Restaurant, DeeDee's Ice Cream and DiCamilo's Bakery.

To learn that Catanese and company have to clear out of the building by the end of the month as per the wishes of the Mil-Pine Plaza owners is heartbreaking for a lot of regulars, my family included. 

A few years back, I interviewed Catanese about all the development springing up around his restaurant in the Military Road-Niagara Falls Boulevard corridor. 

I asked him what it was like for a smallish, family owned place to try to compete with the glitzier, bigger box food outlets. 

He took it all in stride, essentially saying as far as he was concerned, when it comes to the restaurant business, more is merrier. 

He also spoke confidently about the quality of the product at Mom's, saying he'd put his restaurant's food and its staff up against any of those run-of-the-mill chains. 

“I believe a place like this builds up a loyal customer base and the customers stay loyal,” Catanese said during our interview back in 2011. “But, you have to treat them right. We treat them like family. A lot of our customers are like family to us.”

Indeed, they are, have been for decades. 

There's still a possibility Catanese and company will find a new location and reopen under the Mom's moniker someplace else. 

It seems as though Jim and his wife, Pat, aren't exactly set on getting back into the restaurant business anytime soon. 

So, at this point, it appear as though there's only a couple of weeks left to enjoy a breakfast special, some homemade pie or a comforting cup of soup. 

I'm guessing the place will be pretty packed right up until its final hour. 

Corporately owned mega restaurants often miss a key ingredient to success - making sure customers feel at home while they are away from home.

Mom's never missed the mark in that regard. 

Of course, Catanese and company stayed in business for as long as they have because they have good business sense too.

That is, sense enough to know that when a large group of hungry customers with money walk in your door, you don't make them wait or send them away, you find places for them to sit, eat and enjoy.  

Contact City Editor Mark Scheer at 282-2311, ext. 2250.