Pasquale ‘Pat’ Pecora
Former barber turned restaurateur owned and operated a landmark Towson restaurant for decades
Pasquale “Pat” Pecora, who for decades presided over Pecora’s, a well-known Italian restaurant in Towson, died Friday of respiratory failure at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center & Hospital. The longtime Parkville resident was 76. The son of Giovanni Pecora, a restaurateur, and Anna Pecora, a homemaker, Pasquale Pecora was born and raised in Cosenza, Italy.
Mr. Pecora was 17 when he moved to Baltimore with his mother and younger brother and joined his father, who had arrived in the city in 1954. His father had worked as a chef at Illona’s Restaurant in East Baltimore, then opened Pecora’s in 1959 on St. Helena Avenue in Dundalk.
Rather than go into the restaurant business with his family, Mr. Pecora enrolled at the Baltimore Academy of Hairdressers and became a licensed barber.
He opened a barbershop in 1961 in East Baltimore. Several years later, he left barbering and went into the family business, going to work in 1963 at Pecora’s on Greenmount Avenue near 33rd Street in Waverly.
“They made fresh-dough pizza,” said a brother, Albert E. Pecora of Parkville. “They made pizzas in the window of the restaurant, which was quite unusual then. Plus, many of our regular customers were the Orioles and Colts.”
In 1966, a second Pecora’s opened at York Road and Chesapeake Avenue in Towson. A third restaurant opened at Bel Air and Mountain roads in Fallston, which later added Pecora’s Columbus Room in 1975.
Famous entertainers such as Ray Charles, Al Martino, Frankie Avalon, Enzo Stuarti, Brenda Lee and B.J. Thomas performed in the Columbus Room, family members said.
Mr. Pecora worked both the front and back of the house at Pecora’s in Towson, his brother said. The establishment was known for its lively bar scene and was a popular place to have a few beers and a pizza.
“A dim bar with a few booths, it was enlivened by someone playing an electric organ — a species of instrument which some people, to my great amazement, profess to enjoy,” John Dorsey, The Baltimore Sun’s restaurant critic, wrote in 1973.
“But Pecora’s is more than that. Beside and behind the bar room are two dining rooms, quieter and a little more brightly lighted, where they serve fair to occasionally good, if not exciting Italian fare — at least judging by our dinner,” he wrote.
“Pecora’s has exactly what you’d expect an Italian restaurant to have on its menu,” wrote Sun restaurant critic Elizabeth Large in 1978. “There are no surprises, but 90 percent of the customers in an Italian restaurant must order antipasto or minestrone or veal scallopine or spaghetti anyway.”
“I primarily went to the Towson restaurant,” recalled Al Massa of Parkville, a friend for 42 years.
“Pat was a good cook and his sauces — some call them gravy, but I call them sauces — were spectacular when they were put on pasta. They were so good that you thought you were in heaven,” Mr. Massa said. “He liked to experiment and add his own twist, which made them extra special.
“Pat was a great guy who loved telling jokes and making people laugh, and when he told a joke in an Italian accent, he made it extra special,” Mr. Massa said. “He brought laughter into your life, and he enjoyed doing it.” . The Towson building suffered a fire in 1980, but the restaurant was rebuilt and reopened.
In the mid-1980s, Mr. Pecora left the business briefly when he entered into a partnership with Emilio Alecci in construction.
But his heart remained in the restaurant business, and in the late 1980s Mr. Pecora opened an Italian restaurant in Pasadena, which he sold in the early 1990s. Then in 1996, he established a 20-table restaurant — Pecora’s — at 1012 Eastern Ave. in Little Italy.
“That marinara sauce also raised cheesy lasagna and sides of spaghettini a step above the ordinary,” wrote critic Kathryn Higham in a 1997 review. “It was perfect — not too sweet, not too acidic. Thick, but not chunky.”
“That marinara sauce won an award that praised it as being the best marinara sauce in Maryland,” his brother said.
“His favorite dish was veal pizzaiola,” he said.
Mr. Pecora sold the business in 2004 and retired.
Mr. Pecora was one of the 12 founders of La Dolce Vita, an Italian-American social club whose members raised funds for a number of charities.
“He loved socializing with people. He was always the life of the party,” his brother said.
The Raven Ridge Road resident enjoyed hunting and, in his younger years, playing golf.
Mr. Pecora was a communicant of St. Isaac Jogues Roman Catholic Church, 9215 Old Harford Road in Parkville, where a funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
In addition to his brother, Mr. Pecora is survived by his wife of 28 years, the former Debbie Jones; two sons, John Pecora and Sergio Pecora, both of Parkville; four daughters, Lena Hogan and Patricia Pecora, both of Middle River, Natalie Kurtz of Ellicott City and Katelyn Pecora of Parkville; another brother, Michel Pecora of North Port, Fla.; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce. Pasquale Pecora was a founding member of La Dolce Vita, an Italian-American social club.