(Posted Aug. 25, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
When Tom Buscemi walks down the street in West Jefferson, people don’t always call him by name. Sometimes, they just yell out, “Chicken Parm!”
It’s a reference to one of the most popular items on the menu at Ann & Tony’s, the restaurant Tom owns with his wife, Judith.
Come this Labor Day weekend, the couple will go by another name—“grand marshals,” as they have been selected to lead this year’s West Jefferson Ox Roast parade.
Tom was 10 years old when his parents, Ann and Tony, opened what would become an iconic Italian restaurant on Main Street in West Jefferson. That was 1950. His family worked in the restaurant by day and lived in the upstairs apartment by night.
“When I say it’s been my life, it has,” Tom said.
Tom worked at Ann & Tony’s through high school, college and a bit beyond before taking a position as director of Community Action in Union County. Three years into that job, his father asked him to run the restaurant as if it was his own for a while and see what he thought.
“After a couple of weeks, I said, ‘This is me,’” Tom recalls.
He took over ownership of the restaurant in 1972 and has been at the helm ever since. Just as he and his brothers worked at the restaurant when they were young, so did Tom’s four children.
Judith entered the Ann & Tony’s scene in 1979 as an employee. She and Tom later married in 1995. Over the years, all 10 of Judith’s children worked at the restaurant in some capacity or another. Three continue to do so today. Grandchildren have put in time, too, and the youngest great-grandchild tells his mother he plans to follow in everyone’s footsteps.
“We joke with people that they don’t have to be family to work here, but we give them six months to marry into the family,” Tom said, laughing.
At Ann & Tony’s, the feeling of family extends to customers, some of them regulars for decades. As an example, Tom mentioned Ralph Parsons Sr., one of the first Ox Roast grand marshals back in 1973.
“I’m now seeing the fifth generation of his family in the restaurant, and I have waited on all of them,” he said. “I have watched a lot of kids grow up. I put them in a high chair when they first came in and now they are bringing their kids in. It’s interesting to watch life go by through your customers.”
The Buscemis have not only filled customers’ stomachs and helped them to make memories, they’ve also given generously to the community in the form of sponsorships and donations for charitable causes.
They said they were “tickled” to learn they were named grand marshals, but also humbled.
“There are so many people in town you don’t hear about who are helping others on a very personal level. We certainly haven’t done any more than our share,” Tom said.
And about following in other’s footsteps, Tom’s father and stepmother, Mary, were Ox Roast grand marshals in 1988.