Al's to close its doors

By Jay Braman Jr.
A long-time fixture of the Phoenicia business community is about to close its doors, so those that want a taste of local history should makes reservations at Al’s Seafood Restaurant as soon as possible.

Open continuously since 1940, Al’s owner/operator Paul Pettinato, the son of restaurant founder Al Pettinato, announced this week that he is retiring and that the legendary eatery will close its doors, perhaps for good, on March 19.

“At the close of business on March 19, I turn off the lights at Al’s for the last time,” Pettinato said Tuesday.

Almost 62 years old, Pettinato said it was time for him to retire from the restaurant grind and take care of his family and his health.
“I’ve been working here since I was 10 years old,” he said with a laugh. “I’m tired and I want to sit in the sun.”

Interesting memorabilia
The elder Pettinato, the eatery’s namesake, is now deceased, but a slew of memorabilia remains on the walls within the establishment, including original caricatures of Al drawn by legendary Daily News cartoonist Bill Gallo.

“The memorabilia will come with me and stay with the family,” Paul said. “But everything else will remain.”

The good news is that the property has been sold, but until the closing is complete, Pettinato said the new owners prefer to remain anonymous. He did say that it appears that they plan to keep the place a restaurant, but he is not sure it will remain under the current name. “That is their decision,” he said.

Al Pettinato was a professional musician who had his own band that made the rounds on the local hotel circuit back in the 1930s, when the Catskill Region was a booming tourist destination. “He fell in love with the area,” Paul said.

Al purchased a building about a mile west of the current location, most recently the bait and tackle shop on Route 28 across from Ernst Drive, and opened for business in 1940. A couple of years later he moved the business to what was most recently the Woodland Valley Inn and then, in 1946, he bought what was at the time Denny Lynch’s Diner and Al’s has remained there ever since.
“Most people alive around here can’t even remember a time when that Al’s sign wasn’t there,” Pettinato said.