Annarino's Center Cafe

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A photo of Annarino's Center Cafe.
Annarino's Center Cafe, located at 73 E. Main St. The site is now occupied by county government buildings.
Annarino's Center Cafe was located at 73 East Main Street in Newark. The Center Café was a family business that contributed more to the area than just food and conversation. It was a meeting place for many in Licking County for 35 years. The café was named by former sheriff William McElroy. John Annarino, along with his sons Angelo, Frank, Joe, and John Jr., and two cousins Johnny Dayton and Wesley Annarino, worked to make The Center the largest restaurant in Newark at one time.

The popular mainstays of the menu were spaghetti, lasagna, other Italian cuisine. However, when The Center first opened they served cold cuts, beer and wine. Beer was only five to ten cents a bottle in the early days. Insisting that the restaurant’s customers behave civilly, the family maintained order themselves and rarely needed to involve the police.

The Center also gave back to the community by holding charitable dinners and providing workers with payday loans and check cashing services—interest free. With help from the community, charitable dinners were often held, and all profits donated to the P.I.M.E. Seminary. When the community faced difficult financial times, loans were made to B & O Railroad workers – and their watches held as security. The Annarino brothers would also borrow money from banks, interest free, to cash payroll checks.

After sporting events, participants and viewers would often gather at The Center. Fans of professional boxing matches would gather around to ask former boxer and bartender Uncle George Annarino questions about the fight. The opposing teams of many Licking County high schools would flock to the café after games. One night after a game, the brothers hosted four teams at once with about 15 other players waiting to join them just outside the door. On another game night 110 milk shakes were made using just two small mixers.

Annarino’s Center Café closed on November 10, 1979, and is missed by many. Over the years it provided fond memories for many in Licking County.[1]

K.W.

References

  1. Linda A. Woolard, “Annarino Brothers Provide Community with Italian Cuisine, Laughter, and Love” The Licking Countian, November 15, 1979.