Val Suriano submitted the following letter, paying tribute to his late uncle Adolfo Suriano whose restaurant Al's Diner was a local landmark:
Honouring the Memory of Adolfo (Al) Suriano: 3 Mar.1926 – 7 Mar. 2017
This month marked the death of a former long-time resident and well-known businessman of the Sault.
In the late 1940’s the youngest son of Valerio and Josephine Suriano embarked on his first, and possibly his most successful, business venture, Al’s Diner. He was the motivator and originator, and convinced his brothers Frank and Albert to join him in this risky project. The brothers were both working at Algoma Steel, and had recently served in the military. At the time, Al had limited restaurant experience, but had gotten his start working for Mike Rinaldi, who owned Mike’s Lunch on Gore and Queen Streets in the Soo.
With the construction expertise of his brother Guido and financing from a local businessman, the project was completed and opened for business in 1949.
The Suriano Block was born on the corner of Dennis and Queen Streets. The eye-catching yellow limestone brick structure with its light red trim was the first completely new restaurant building erected in Sault Ste. Marie in many a year.
The modern building had a long counter with leather stools, booths with jukeboxes, and an open grill, hence the name Al’s Diner. In back of the building was a small bakery which supplied the restaurant. Upstairs were dental offices and a hairdressing salon.
Later, the restaurant was renovated, the front entrance was moved, the kitchen moved to the back and the name changed to Al’s Restaurant.
At only 23 years old, Al had foresight, drive, and work ethic, and with the teamwork of Albert, Frank, and the dedicated staff, the restaurant thrived.
The strategic central location on the busy corner near the newly opened Memorial Gardens and across from the bus terminal helped. This establishment was rarely, if ever, quiet. From breakfast through lunch, the supper hour, and late into the evening, the patrons loved the great food and the family atmosphere. There were sporting event contests, delayed telecasts of the Greyhound games, and raffles. Customers ranged from shift workers, businessmen, musicians, and seniors, to teenagers. After a show, an event at the Gardens, a party, a wedding or just for hanging out, a visit to Al’s was a way to cap off your evening.
Al was also invested in other businesses here. He was a partner in Lusterway Cleaners, the Alpelco Restaurant, and a service station at James and Queen Streets. He and his brothers also built and operated the Diplomat Motel at the corner of Queen and Pim. Al’s many involvements along with raising a family made him a very busy man.
After retiring from the restaurant and his other businesses here, he moved to Southern Ontario. He wasn’t idle there, owning a drycleaning business in Port Credit and also partnering in a beautiful dining establishment in Oakville called “The King’s Table”.
Al was a wonderful guy, with a magnetic personality. He played piano and had a good voice. He could be the life of the party, and was a great fan of Frank Sinatra.
It is quite possible that I may have missed some of his other business ventures. One thing of which I am sure is that he was special person. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. May he rest in peace.
- V.R. (Val) Suriano