By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, July 25, 2012, Myrtle Beach – An air conditioning unit broke in the kitchen, emergency plumbing repairs had to be made and it was 100 degrees outside, but Phil Pecora was simply glad his longtime Myrtle Beach restaurant, Toffino’s Italian Bakery & Deli, was open again after a month-long remodeling and expansion closure.
Fifteen years ago Pecora moved to Myrtle Beach from Philadelphia and established his restaurant in the Galleria shopping center at the north end of Myrtle Beach. A few years later the chef moved to his present location on the former U.S. Air Force Base when the city announced a plan to develop the property.
But that plan didn’t materialize for more than 10 years, and Pecora had to establish a customer base while in an out-of-the-way location. Through hard work and excellent products, that loyal customer base did follow him and grow, but it didn’t grow enough for him to expand.
Finally, after The Market Common opened in the spring of 2008 and the development’s main drag, Farrow Parkway, was built and passed beside Toffino’s, Pecora’s business really took off.
Now, after a half-million dollar investment, he has added a roomy dining area, new display cases, a new pizza oven, new restrooms, new paint and ceilings, a completely new and handsome brick façade, a unique fountain, two outdoor shaded dining patios and two regulation bocce ball courts.
Pecora even ordered three types of olive trees and incorporated them in the landscaping. He doesn’t know for sure if they’ll grow here, but he wants to give them a shot.
“I want it to be a quasi-park,” Pecora said, taking a break from fitting a back room sink with new pipes. “There’s room for people to come out and relax, have a glass of wine, play bocce ball, enjoy the fountain.”
Pecora was a mason before he was a restaurateur, and he bricked that fountain himself. At first he planned to use a prefab fountain, but after he decided to lay brick around it, the project grew until it became a fabulous four-spout creation with streams of water pouring into warmly colored pottery jugs.
The Sons of Italy are already making plans to have tournaments on the bocce ball courts, Picora said, and when they’re ready for play in a few days, after the gravel has had a chance to set better, customers will be able to pay a small fee to use the courts in half-hour increments.
“Bocce ball is a fun game to watch,” Pecora said. “Some players have unique techniques, and then there’s the camaraderie.”
The Toffino’s menu is the same for now: omelets and sandwiches for breakfast; and the rest of the day there are hot sandwiches, deli sandwiches, steak sandwiches, pizza, salads and Italian ice. Pastries, cookies, biscotti and breads are baked fresh every day, using 100-year-old family recipes, and the dining room is now open until 9 p.m.
Pecora said he plans to soon add appetizers to the menu.
The dining room is three or four times bigger than the old one, and now table service is provided from two waitresses, instead of having to order at the counter. However, people wishing to purchase deli items or baked goods can still go to the counter.
The old small dining room was incorporated into the kitchen, so the production staff has more room to work.
Toffino’s now has a liquor license, and diners may choose from seven bottled beers. Soon wine will also be sold, as soon as the wine glasses are delivered.
Pecora also now has a new manager in addition to longtime manager Patricia Fair. His 23-year-old son, Christopher Pecora, has a degree in business and a minor in economics from the College of Charleston, and he is being prepped to eventually open a second Toffino’s in Charleston.
Hundreds of diners who missed their fresh breads and bear claws while Toffino’s was closed visited the restaurant Tuesday to dine and offer Pecora their congratulations. He is relieved to be open again, and is looking forward to cooler fall weather when outdoor furniture will be in place on the patios, and the vision he has had in mind for 15 years will be reality.
Toffino’s is at 550 Farrow Parkway in Myrtle Beach, and the number is (843) 477-1598. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.