While fast food establishments and national chains come and go, continues to serve loyal customers as it has for more than a half a century.
The third generation of the Tecce family maintains the restaurant’s charisma by serving large volumes of high-quality, home-style food, in a caring family atmosphere, just as they did when their grandfather purchased Santoro’s in 1957.
Jim Tecce, second generation owner, took over the location at 41 Main St. and ran the family business successfully with the support and assistance of his wife and children, Jim, Melissa, and Deanna.
When daughter Melissa Hegarty graduated with a culinary degree from Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, she returned to Santoro’s to work for the family business. She had no idea that her temporary return would turn out to be a full-time commitment to carry on the tradition.
Melissa went on to fully operate the eatery in 2001 after her father’s unexpected illness and the loss of the family’s only son, Jim, at age 24. When their father Jim Tecce died from cancer in 2007, Melissa fully took over the operation of Santoro’s, along with the help of her sister, Deanna Tecce.
“Our father had us learn how to do everything ourselves. He would tell us to look things us if we asked him how to do something.” said Hegarty, who along with her sister works six days a week to keep the restaurant going strong . “We realize now what he was doing. We work hard, and we always worked hard for what we received. He taught us to be independent, and to appreciate everything.”
Melissa and Deanna continuethe tradition of fresh meals and inviting surroundings reminiscent of a close-knit family, as regulars walk into the restaurant and converse as if it was their own home. A new generation is growing up at Tecce’s as well, as Melissa is able to bring her nine-month-old daughter, Keira, into work thanks to assistance from her family and even long-time customers who are more than willing to hold her while Melissa prepares orders.
Over the years, the Tecce family’s lessons in strong work ethics and family traditions have clearly paid off. By offering fresh food and friendly service to loyal customers, Santoro’s is able to employ 12 people, mostly full time, at its Peabody location. The restaurant also has a strong catering business that their father, Jim Tecce, started during his tenure. Despite the recession, Melissa said sales have consistently risen each year.
The cozy restaurant welcomes guests with a photo gallery of newspaper clippings and old time images of the Tecce family. There is ample seating for dine-in, as well as a large take-out area featuring a steam table with health conscious offerings that rotate daily. Unlike many other sandwich shops, they also offer full-service catering. “
When asked to share their secret for success and the most challenging aspects of running a business, Melissa said, “Quality products, fresh ingredients and loyal customers that are like family are what Santoro’s is about. Finding qualified help and recognizing their needs while balancing life, working crazy hours during busy seasons and managing money are our challenges. “