Morgia’s Restaurant: Where ‘everone went’ for food, conversation

The original Morgia’s Restaurant at 603 W. Prospect St., a popular local hangout known for its quality Italian food and vibrant conversations, burned down in 1956. It re-opened nine months later, but closed permanently in 1978. The family’s legacy lives on today through Morgia’s Pasta, a family-run business in Watertown. Photo courtesy Watertown Daily Times Archives

“Relax and enjoy the finest Italian American foods—in Northern New York’s Most Modern Restaurant” read the headline of a full-page ad in the Watertown Daily Times heralding the re-opening of the famed Morgia’s Restaurant in Oct. 1956. Nine months prior, Morgia’s Restaurant, a popular spot for family dinners, wedding receptions, cocktails and dancing for 44 years, had burned to the ground on the bitterly cold night of Jan. 21, 1956. The restaurant’s founders, Cataldo Morgia, his wife, the former Ida Spaziani, and their granddaughter, nine-year-old Barbara J. Dupee, narrowly escaped the blaze that killed a family dog and demolished nearly all of the restaurant’s contents.

Mr. Morgia founded the original restaurant, at 603 W. Prospect St., in 1934, on the site of what was previously a grocery store and meat market operated by his family. Mr. Morgia and his wife, both born in Italy, previously owned and operated the Central House boarding establishment, a restaurant and grocery store at 956 W. Main St., which they discontinued in 1918. The decision to open a restaurant was allegedly the result of the stack of unpaid bills owed to the store owners during the Great Depression accumulating to the point that Mr. Morgia and his son gathered them up one day, burned them in the furnace and decided to get into a different business—sowing the seeds of what would become one of Watertown’s most well-known gathering places. [Read more…]