While other restaurants were struggling during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thomas “Tommy” Bonfiglio’s businesses thrived. His restaurant chains, Tommy’s Tavern + Tap and Tio Taco + Tequila Bar, found success as others shut down.
By the beginning of this year, Tommy’s Tavern + Tap expanded to eight locations, from the Jersey Shore to Princeton and Staten Island. Tio Taco + Tequila Bar was also expanding, with three locations throughout the state.
Bonfiglio, the founder of both restaurant chains, died Friday. He was 62. His family did not release the cause of death.
Apart from being a restaurant owner, Bonfiglio was a husband to his “best friend” Yvette, according to his obituary, and a father of two daughters, Andrea and Christina.
“He just touched so many people and so many lives,” said his daughter, Andrea Spence. “Everyone felt a personal connection with him, and just felt great being around him.”
Bonfiglio was born and raised in Brooklyn, according to his obituary. After he graduated from Nazareth High School, he earned his undergraduate degree from Pace University. Later, he attained his Doctorate of Law from Brooklyn Law School.
He had more than 30 years of experience as a certified public accountant and attorney before retiring in 2021, according to an online biography from his law firm.
Christina Dietz, Bonfiglio’s other daughter, said she and Spence would talk with their dad every day. Spending time with their dad was their favorite thing to do, Dietz said.
“He lived ten lives in one life,” she said. “He had no regrets. He just lived. He lived every second of every day.”
Joe Orecchio, the manager at Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in Sea Bright, said he worked with Bonfiglio since 2012.
“Everyone here loved him so much. He was such a personable owner to all of us,” Orecchio said. “And we are beyond devastated, but we look forward to keeping his restaurants going (and) his guests happy the way he would’ve wanted us to. And only his spirit is going to enable us to do that.”
A Mass of Christian burial will be held Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at Holy Cross Church in Rumson. There will not be public visitation at the funeral home.
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Camille Furst may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find her on Twitter @CamilleFurst.