In the early 1900s, motion pictures were silent, alcohol was illegal, and the Model T was the ultimate in automotive design. Rose Pasnello, an industrious Italian immigrant, was cooking for her husband, Frank, and his fellow lumbermen who were clearing a railroad path through the woodlands near Sonestown, north of Williamsport, PA.
By the late 20th century, the movies had long since found their voice, Prohibition had become history, the automobile's face had changed substantially from Henry Ford's day. But the Pasnello's legacy of hard work and good food (carried on by their great-grandchildren, Alfredo, Maria, Francis and Roseanne Daniele) is evident in the busy kitchen of Franco's Lounge, 12 West Fourth Street, just off Market Street in downtown Williamsport.
Franco, the patriarch of the Danieles, bought the business in 1984 as an outlet for his children, and using the friendliness and savvy he had cultivated in 40 years as a barber, Franco helped the restaurant quickly became part of the city's landscape.
It's not surprising, since the family has been entwined with downtown Williamsport since Frank and Rose Pasnello started a dray line at 149 Market Street about 1910, shortly after the fall of Williamsport's Lumber Era. Frank and Rosa reared two children, Anthony and Mary Wise Pasnello.
A few years later, Mary Pasnello married Alfredo Daniele and they established the New York Barber Shop on Market Street. Eventually, Franco (Francis) Daniele was born and trained to take over the barbershop. He married Joanna Testa of the Newberry section of Williamsport, and started their family. Joanna's parents had immigrated from Italy in the 1930s, and had three children: Angelo, Joanna and Enrico. The Testas farmed an area of Newberry just off Linn Street, and helped build and establish the Dante Club of Newberry.
Gaining popularity through the talents of his daughter Maria, with experience in the food business, and sons, Alfredo and Francis, both of whom had tended bar during their college years, Franco's Lounge outgrew itself by 1989. The facilities and menu were expanded that year, offering patrons more elbow room and more exotic foods. Maria fine-tuned her expertise by attending the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, CA and Hyde Park, NY. Alfredo also is at home in an apron and is a part-time instructor at the Pennsylvania College of Technology School of Hospitality. Francis handles the business' finances.
With the new century came a new name: Franco's Lounge, Restaurant & Music Club. The name is a commitment to local artists and national performers alike. In addition to helping to launch the annual Billtown Blues Festival and the Support Poetry, Arts and Music (S.P.A.M.), Franco's has featured top names such as Joan Osborne, Steve Forbert, Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band and Jerry Portney (who, incidentally, made the first public announcement of the birth of Franco's first grandchild, Giovanna Maria Daniele. While 1989 saw changes within the bar/restaurant, another member of the family was making a name for herself a block to the north. After 20 years at Divine Providence Hospital, Franco's wife, the former Joanna Testa, fulfilled her dream. She and daughter Roseanne opened a pastry shop at 445 Market Street in Williamsport and began selling Italian specialties, pastries and breads. "Joanna's Italian Bakery" is now located at our sister restaurant, Cloud 9 Airport Restaurant, at the Williamsport Regional Airport in nearby Montoursville, PA.
Franco, Joanna, Alfredo, Maria, Francis and Roseanne Daniele are a family tradition in the heart of Williamsport.