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Peter M. Longo Jr., 71, champion of local restaurants

Feb. 16, 1946 – July 13, 2017

Peter M. Longo Jr., the spokesman for Western New York Local Restaurant Week and a champion of independent locally-owned restaurants, had a different career in mind until he was 19.

That was when his father suffered a fatal heart attack. Mr. Longo temporarily interrupted his studies at the University at Buffalo and stepped in to help his mother run the family’s soft-serve custard business, Longo’s Drive In, at Kenmore and Englewood avenues in the Town of Tonawanda.

He died last Thursday in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga, after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71.

“After the death of my father in 1966,” Mr. Longo recalled, “I found that I liked food service and decided to continue in that business and bypass law school.”

He expanded the family’s frozen custard menu to include sandwiches and items from the grill, then started Peter’s Pub a few blocks away on Kenmore Avenue.

The Longos closed the drive-in in 1983 and for several years he oversaw the pub and Peter’s New Saratoga Restaurant, which he revitalized on Delaware Avenue in North Buffalo.

After the pub and restaurant closed in the early 1990s, he was food and beverage director for Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg, then became director of sales and marketing for Sorrento Food Service, later US Food Service. Since 2001, he had been distributor sales consultant for C.A. Curtze Co., a food service distributor based in Erie, Pa.

In the 1980s, he joined with several other local restaurateurs to raise the Buffalo area’s profile in the New York State Restaurant Association.

“We used to take part in many, many Restaurant Association functions,” says Larry Pilarz, formerly of Adam’s Steak and Seafood Restaurant in Cheektowaga. “But we did not get taken seriously. It was slanted toward New York City. So we made a decision to get more active.”

Mr. Longo was president of the association’s Western New York chapter in the early 1990s and again in 2009-2010 and served on the association’s local and state boards of directors.

“He was always one to go to meetings, even if he was not a voting member,” says Bill DeLuca, formerly of Mr. Bill’s Restaurant and Bar in Cheektowaga. “He was one who’d speak up on issues and people would listen to him. He was a smart man. When I had issues I didn’t know how to solve, I’d call him and he’d always come up with a pretty good solution.”

In 2009, when chef and restaurant owner Mike Andrzejewski wanted to introduce the Restaurant Week promotion popular in other cities, he went to Mr. Longo, who worked with Daniel Garvey, then treasurer of the state association, to rally support for the idea.

Western New York’s Restaurant Week, now held twice a year, is one of the largest in the nation. Mr. Longo presided at the official announcement of the week for several years.

He also fostered programs that supported young people entering careers in food service. He helped develop the local ProStart Taste of Education program for local high school culinary arts students, which provides scholarships, and served as judge for local and statewide ProStart culinary competitions.

He was a board member of the International Food Service Executives Association and the Greater Buffalo Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He was honored as Restaurateur of the Year by the New York State Restaurant Association and received several awards from the association’s Western New York Chapter. He also was given the Gold Medal Award and Silver Medal Award by the Council of Food Service Associations.

Born in Buffalo, he was a 1963 graduate of St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1968 from UB, where he was president of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity and a Solon E. Summerfield Scholar.

He was a member of the St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute Signum Fidel Committee and a board member of the school’s Alumni Association and the LaSallian Steering Committee.

A member and sponsor of the Ilio DiPaolo Memorial Golf Tournament, he received the Humanitarian Award from the Ilio DiPaolo Foundation.

He was chairman of the Meals on Wheels Restaurant Fundraiser Program and received the Albert F. Deamer Volunteer Recognition Award from Erie County Meals on Wheels.

He and his wife served as co-presidents of the Buffalo Seminary Parents Council. He also was a member of the Nardin Academy Parents Core Committee.

Surviving are his wife of 47 years, the former Gloria J. Czapko; two daughters, Andrea E. Longo Carter and Kristina J.; a brother, Andrew T.; and two grandsons.

Services were held Tuesday in the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, 96 Jewett Parkway.

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