In 1895, Patrick J. Tierney, who coined the term “diner”, began a lunch wagon business that grew so fast it inspired him to begin manufacturing the mobile restaurants himself in his hometown of New Rochelle, New York. Two of his former employees went on to create the iconic diner manufacturers Fodero Dining Car Company and the Kullman Dining Car Company. A third, Angelo DeRaffele, continued Tierney’s work in New York.
The DeRaffele Manufacturing Company, founded by DeRaffele and Carl A. Johnson as Johnson & DeRaffele, took over the Tierney factory in New Rochelle in 1933 and continues to operate there to the present day. Angelo DeRaffele started working for Tierney as a carpenter in 1921. When the Tierney company closed, DeRaffele partnered with company president Carl A. Johnson to continue manufacturing diners under a new name. DeRaffele took over full ownership in 1947.
I’ve visited DeRaffele diners in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. Classic DeRaffele diners are typically flat and rectangular with stainless steel, striped exteriors with center entrances. More recent diners built on site have a distinctive three-tiered “crown” over the entrance.
Three Brothers Diner, at 242 White Street in Danbury, Connecticut, is a 1990 DeRaffele. I love the red-trim stainless steel exterior. The letters that spell “diner” on the sign change color. It is open 24 hours on the weekend and is a favorite of students from nearby Western Connecticut State University.
Red Line Diner, at 588 U.S. Route 9 (off I-84) in Fishkill, New York, is owned by the Vanikiotis Group. It’s become a local favorite since opening in 2012 and is marketed as a healthier alternative to typical diner fare. Its doors are open 24/7 and the red and stainless steel exterior is sharp.
Al Mac’s Diner-Restaurant, at 135 President Avenue in Fall River, Massachusetts, is a 1953 DeRaffele. The diner’s namesake, Al McDermott, began selling food in 1910 to mill workers from a horse cart. He opened this location, alongside a host of other restaurants, in the 1950s. Al Mac’s in Fall River was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. It is currently owned by the Dunse family, who acquired it in 2013.
Corner Lunch Diner, at 133 Lamartine Street in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a 1955 DeRaffele. Originally located in Babylon, New York, it moved to Worcester in 1968, where it was owned by Demetrious Efstathiou and re-assembled by the Musi Dining Car Company. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.
Ambrosia Diner, at 518 Aviation Road in Queensbury, New York, opened off I-87 Exit 19 in 2012. It is owned by Dennis and Robert Pilarinos, who also own several other diners in the area, including Capital City Diner in Albany. It is rumored to have heated sidewalks! I love the stainless steel on the exterior and retro design.