Dario Toffenetti, an Austrian immigrant, opened his restaurant ‘Toffenetti’s’ in 1940. He came to the U.S in 1910 and started out selling baked potatoes in Wisconsin. Consequently, he became the man to make the baked potato famous. After that, he became a busboy in Chicago at Sherman’s House. In 1914, he opened his first restaurant in Chicago and by 1937 he had opened up six restaurants in that area. Toffenetti attended the New York’s World Fair in 1939, where he introduced the city to his famous food. He bought out a premiere spot in Times Square, at the corner of Broadway and 43rd.
On his New York’s World Fair menu, he showcased his famous baked potato. During this period in time, The Great Depression really took a toll on America’s economy. Due to tariffs being placed and banks going out of business, the peoples were struggling especially when it came to food. Many potatoes were being produced in Idaho and so the baked potato gained fame quickly among the Americans.
Another staple item of this menu is baked ham. This is not just any regular ham, it was “roast sugar cured ham,” from Oscar Meyer. This simple yet delicious dish had Toffenettis going crazy with business. On their first opening day in Times Square, Toffenettis served around 8,500 meals. Dario Toffenetti grabbed customers’ attention from his imaginative advertising. His advertised menu items made his sales go up in just one week.
The image above is from the full menu of the Times Square location. The old fashioned strawberry shortcake was the most popular dessert item at the restaurant. During the late 1930’s, strawberry farms started to expand. The biggest farms are in Missouri and Illinois. The harvests produced by these farms were transported to different states mainly through the railroad. The Depression allowed for farms to hire more workers which resulted in more harvests. This is why strawberries became so popular during this time, and Toffenettis used them to make a delicious dessert.
Unfortunately, Dario Toffenetti died in 1962, so his family decided to close the business in 1968. This restaurant was a tremendous success and left a mark in many people’s lives. He was celebrated by the restaurant industry, and was one of the few immigrants at the time that had such a grand and successful restaurant.