BATAVIA — Rose Mary Christian thought long and hard about getting back into the restaurant business.
She even consulted family, including her brother Larry Sformo last fall. He suggested that she should have “a real good spaghetti dinner,” but never had a chance to offer further advice. He died in December 2011. It has been a lesson.
“One thing I learned from my brother’s death is, you do what you want. This is what I want. I’m too active to stay at home,” Christian said Saturday at her new venture on Ellicott Street Road. “Good food and good people, that’s what makes a restaurant survive. Delicious homemade food where good people come to meet, that’s my slogan.”
Rosie’s Diner opened at 6 a.m. today just past the city’s outskirts on Route 63. Christian planned to be there bright and early making a pot of hearty chili. Those special touches — a homemade soup of the day, fresh Italian bread and a slew of made-from-scratch meals such as meatloaf, eggplant parmesan and spaghetti and meatballs with a sauce that has simmered all day — will hopefully draw a hungry crowd, she said.
As some longtime former customers said to her recently, it’s like “coming home” for Christian. Her father James Sformo ran the Bee Hive from 1956 until it closed in 1965. After raising her family of four daughters, the southside resident re-opened the place, tacking on a word to make it Bee Hive Too, in 1983. Her dad was 83 at the time and helped out by pouring coffee for patrons. He was a prime example of how to do retirement: keep busy, she said.
Christian, a representative for Ward Six, was elected to City Council in 1991. A dozen years later she retired from the restaurant business. She sold the business Bob and Alice Burkel, who renamed it Fedora’s and opened it in November 2010. That closed about eight months ago, which prompted Christian to rethink her own retirement. There definitely was an element she enjoyed at Bee Hive Too.
“I loved the people, I loved the business,” she said. “I took all winter to make up my mind. Then I decided to do it.”
No matter what it’s been called, the site has culled a steady customer base from local farmers, truck drivers, neighbors and others from around the county. Christian will be chief cook and server along with prep cook Angelo Cassidy. With a background of four years at a BOCES culinary arts program, working at a couple of five-star restaurants in Ohio and as a cook at Ponderosa, he is well versed for most anything, he said.
His grandparents used to drive from Pavilion to dine at the Bee Hive. They were excited to learn that some version of the Christian-based eatery is returning.
“Grandpa, he loved this place,” Cassidy said. “He used to come here every day.”
Christian has changed the decor with rattan and glass tables and chairs with red, black and gold-striped cushions. She even painted the floor a shade of light gray with assorted speckles. It has been the proverbial labor of love, she said, getting up by 5 a.m. every day.
She is counting on a big breakfast and lunch crowd, with a menu full of eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, ham and home-fry, plus a variety of hamburgers and grilled sandwich, items. She noted that the home fries are not the packaged frozen type but made with real potatoes. There will be lunch specials, such as meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy and golumpki, a mix of ground beef and rice rolled up in a cabbage leaf.
Fish fry dinners will be available on Fridays and specials include “Big Bob’s” fisherman’s platter, a line-up of cod, scallops and shrimp with a side of french fries. Or try the eggplant parmesan, hand-breaded and served with angel hair pasta and salad.
So as not to end on a savory note, Christian will have assorted pies from Leo’s Bakery in Rochester and her own delicious treat.
“I make a really good rice pudding,” she said. “I cook it for hours and them bake it. It’s creamy and sweet.”
Take-outs are available. Hours are 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and Saturday and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. For more information, call (585) 343-0015