Thomas J. Bonfiglio, who built a restaurant chain in North Jersey and elsewhere even as the COVID-19 pandemic caused similar businesses to close, died Friday. He was 62 years old.
He and his family have opened two restaurants in Clifton in the past two years — Tio Taco + Tequila Bar last summer and Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in December 2020 — and their stock of restaurants has more than tripled during the pandemic.
Bonfiglio, who was a lawyer for many years and a chartered accountant, told NorthJersey.com last year that the physical size of its restaurants allowed them to weather the pandemic† they were large enough to accommodate hundreds of people, while maintaining social distancing once indoor dining was allowed. He had three restaurants at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 and had ten by mid-last year after moving his businesses to several restaurants that had closed.
“I saw it as an opportunity,” Bonfiglio said in an interview last year.
“The restaurant industry is the most difficult business I’ve ever been in,” he added.
He said the restaurants are family-owned — the umbrella company is called Triple T Hospitality — with his wife and two daughters closely involved, along with other family members.
In addition to the Clifton locations, the family runs Tommy’s Tavern + Tap restaurants in Sea Bright, Freehold Township, Staten Island, Princeton, Parsippany, and Bridgewater, and Tio Taco + Tequila Bar restaurants in Marlboro and Edison.
Funeral guidance is provided by Funeral Center Holmdel. The home’s owner, Bill Boglioli, said services had not yet been completed. Bonfiglio, of Rumson, died Friday night at Riverview Medical Center, the obituary said. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Bonfiglio kept his law practice until last year, according to a biography on his law firm’s website. It said he had been a lawyer and CPA for 30 years before retiring. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pace University in 1982 and graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1987.
He grew up in Brooklyn, where he met his wife Yvette, and they moved to New Jersey in 1992 after having their first child, settling in Monmouth County, Bonfiglio said in an interview several years ago.
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Bonfiglio said he loved his legal career but was excited about a new career in the restaurant business.
He and his wife, who had two daughters, Andrea and Christina, became partners years ago at the Dockside, a restaurant in Sea Bright. He said he brought coal-fired pizza to the Jersey Shore in 2009 — calling pizza “the most perfect food ever invented.” But he said he wanted variety, which led to him opening a Tommy’s Tavern in Sea Bright.
“I’ve been a lawyer for 30 years,” he said. “I’ve had a long career and I loved it. But I really enjoy this part.”
Bonfiglio continued to work as a lawyer for many years, but said he enjoyed working in the hospitality industry with his family. He said in last year’s interview that his daughters both work in the company – Andrea as Chief Marketing Officer and Christina as Chief Brand Officer.
“In the end, it all comes down to family,” he said. “We make money, but it’s not motivated by money. It’s an extension of our home.”
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Tommy Bonfiglio, owner of restaurant chain NJ, dies aged 62