Community Maplewood Millburn Opinion South Orange Towns

A Remembrance: Angelo Vayas Made Everyone in SOMA Feel Like Family

Editor’s note: restaurant owner and Maplewood resident Angelo Vayas passed away last May after a battle with cancer. His wife, Mary, and family created the AV Hero Fund to carry on his legacy and celebrate his life. The fund’s first event will be the AV Hero Fund Golf Outing on Monday, June 13 at the Maplewood Country Club. Learn more about the outing and how to purchase tickets and sponsorships here.

Tuesday was the one-year anniversary of Angelo Vayas’ death, from a rare form of brain cancer called Glioblastoma Multiforme. His passing robbed our community of a foundational member, someone who had been such a central role in so many of our lives that a good chunk of our community mourned Angelo as we would a family member.

My wife and I moved to Maplewood in 1998 with our 10-month old, Jacob. Angelo and Mary Vayas and their sons were among our friendly neighbors on a dead-end street and we quickly learned that they owned a great little restaurant in town, the Village Trattoria. The Trat became our extended family kitchen, where we’d go for a meal when we just didn’t have the time or energy to cook a meal. It was quick, reasonably priced, delicious and always welcoming to families with little kids. It was also overseen by our lovely neighbor, Angelo, who always greeted us with a smile and, as Jacob grew into a toddler and beyond, a high five and warm greeting for him.

It didn’t take long to realize that one of the secrets to the Trat’s success was that everyone who walked in the place felt like Angelo’s neighbor – not just the lucky few who actually were. As our family expanded to three children and they all grew up into teendom, the Trat retained a central role in our lives, the site or caterer of some landmark moments. And Angelo remained the friendly neighbor overseeing the place, years after he moved off our street.

Jacob is now 18, about to graduate from Columbia and friends with several members of the wait and bus staff. Walking into the Trat dining room with my family last week, I was overcome with emotion at the site in front of me. The tables were filled with people of every race and age side by side comfortably enjoying dinner in their extended family kitchen. I felt so sad for a moment that Angelo couldn’t see this scene, and then so happy; Angelo had a vision and he executed it. Every meal eaten at any of his three Trattoria restaurants is a testament and memorial to the man and I will remember him and make a silent toast every time I enter. Thanks for everything, Angelo.

Alan Paul is the author of One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band and the leader of the Big in China Band.

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