In 1927, our family came to Hightstown from Perth Amboy. My father and his brother bought land from Mr. Benjamin Zaitz and had a brand new lunch wagon built by Jerry O'Mahony from Kearny, NJ. It was transported on wheels to its present site, which was parallel to Mercer Street, and it was named the Hightstown Diner. Dad paid approximately $7,000.00, and it came complete with a twelve stool counter, full kitchen, glasses, dishes, cutlery and cookware. Mr. O'Mahony also provided an analysis of profit and loss and a follow-up on how to increase profitability. It was calculated that the average diner customer occupied his stool for about 8 minutes and spent 28 cents. In no time at all dad became quite successful. His dishes were better than the average lunch wagon food. He used fresh herbs, which he grew in his garden and dried for the winter. He used real olive oil, made fresh yogurt, baked pies in season, and made his famous rice pudding.
Two years later Mr. O'Mahony located him another parcel of land in Burlington, NJ and built him a second lunch wagon which was larger and provided tables for ladies! His progress continued and in 1936 the Hightstown Diner was replaced by Mr. O'Mahony's new diner concept having a separate dining room for family entertainment. We became one of the only food establishments to serve turkey every day! A lady farmer, Mrs. Graham, and her sister from Edinberg, NJ raised beautiful turkeys for dad and supplied us all year round. At the time we had male waiters and cooks. We washed and ironed their uniforms in our own home each day.
In 1929, the depression came and dad's business slowed down some, but I can always remember him saying grace at the dinner table and thanking God for helping him pay his bills and never having to dismiss any of his cherished employees. In 1941, Nick and I were married and that is when we ordered the third diner in Hightstown. It was a modern stainless steel interior and exterior structure. It was built by Mr. Johnson who was an airline designer and manufacturer. The airline business was slow so he began building and designing diners at a factory in New Rochelle, NY. Our new diner was one of his newest and largest diners built at the time.
Our grand opening brought people from all over to see this very modern eatery. For the first time, we hired women for waitresses because the war had just begun and male employees were unavailable. Our menu became much more sophisticated. Along with the turkey, we now served steaks, chops, roast beef and lamb, fresh seafood, crisp salads and home baked desserts.
Our clientele consisted of farmers, businessmen, blue and white collar workers and their families and many travelers. The Peddie School students and faculty were very good customers. I can remember Friday nights we would be bombarded with students because fish would be the only entree served at the school cafeteria. Our Sunday morning breakfasts were also popular with the students.
After the Second World War ended, the customer's demand for cocktails and wine forced us to look into a liquor license but there were none available in Hightstown. In 1959, we sold the business and dad retired. Nick and his partner Jerry Voutsinas bought property in Bordentown where we are now located. There we built a very modern diner restaurant large enough to seat 350 people.
In 1967, a disastrous fire occurred destroying the entire building. It took us 1-1/2 years to rebuild and open for business. We then bought out our partner and renamed the place Mastoris Diner Restaurant We had always been open 24 hours but decided to close at 1 a.m. and open at 4 a.m. At this time our three sons were an integral part of this family venture.
On busy days we would feed from 500 to 800 people. We were open 7 days a week and closed only on Christmas Day.
Over the years our crew grew to 160 people, plus our 3 sons, our grandson, and our granddaughter. On busy days we serve from 1200 to 2800 people. Using 300 dozen eggs for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday is not unusual. Seafood of every kind, prime rib beef, steaks and chops are our best sellers along with sauteed chicken and veal dishes and homemade pastas. In our kitchen you will find a very organized assembly line performance. Our back kitchen is where the heavy preparation is done. The soups, sauces, roasts, dressings, and salads are prepared in this area. The front kitchen is where all the breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, broiling, sauteing, and frying is done. Each group of chefs again has his own station and does nothing but his own specialty. There is always one who expedites each order and sees that each server receives his or her correct order. Our bakery, which has been enlarged for the fourth time since we began in 1960, is completely separate from the kitchen area. There are two bakers who just bake bread, one who just bakes and decorates specialty cakes for every occasion and others who bake cookies, danish, and all other specialties.
Our son Alex together with his son Nick, did all the buying of food, planned menus, tested and created new recipes and showed the chefs how to prepare them. Since we now do large catering parties off premises their responsibilities have become quite extensive. Our grandson Nick has taken over many duties in the planning and expediting of our catering business.
Our diner is uniquely American and has always been everyone's kitchen. It has been known for fast service, fresh food, and friendliness. You never know who might be sitting next to you or from where. A four star general could be sitting next to a road laborer or the ex-President of the United States may be walking in with a woman jogger. We encourage our employees to cultivate rapport with each of their customers, getting to know how he or she likes their food and when to serve it.
On Saturday, January 3, 2004, great sadness prevailed upon my family when we lost my beloved husband Nick. Nick was a self-made man and lived his life to the fullest, promoting good values, kindness, and generosity, and always with great humility. His greeting to all was always accompanied with his warm sincere smile. A great tribute was given to him by the masses of people who attended his funeral. He is painfully missed by all of us, but his memory will be eternal. It may be the end of an era but the family legacy will continue from generation to generation. Greetings to all of you and many thanks for your kind condolences and for your continued support.
Mary Mastoris May 3, 2004
In 1974, I finally took control and began to transform and shape Mastoris into the diner that it is today. I began to fine tune the menu with size, flavor, and variety being at the forefront of every dish. The expansion of the menu led to the other areas of the restaurant to grow such as the development of the banquet hall, bakery, and catering services off the restaurant premises. Mastoris quickly became a New Jersey staple. The buzz around Mastoris even caught the attention of President Gerald Ford, who I personally served when he came into the restaurant.
People tried to convince me to advertise and I would say to them "look at all the people leaving with their leftover food." That's the best advertisement!
In 2011, my friend Jimmy Manetas joined the Mastoris organization to help me after my brothers retired. I tried my hand at retirement too, but it didn't last long. When you are used to the fast pace of a restaurant, after a while you start to miss it. In 2018, I opened Rocco's at the Brick in Newtown, Pennsylvania. Jimmy has moved on to concentrate on his other popular restaurants and now my son Nick is running Mastoris. Nick is a graduate of Cornell University and has been working at Mastoris since he was 13 years old. Helping Nick is his new partner and next door neighbor. Be on the lookout for new menu items, bar favorites, and desserts to satisfy everyone.
Alex Mastoris October 1, 2018