Thomas J. Bonfiglio, who built up a chain of restaurants from the Shore to North Jersey and beyond, even as the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered similar businesses, died Friday. He was 62 years old.
He and his family opened two restaurants in Clifton within the last two years ― Tio Taco + Tequila Bar last summer and Tommy’s Tavern + Tap in December of 2020 ― and their inventory of restaurants more than tripled during the pandemic.
Bonfiglio, who practiced law and was a certified public accountant for decades, told NorthJersey.com last year that the physical size of his restaurants allowed them to weather the pandemic; they were large enough to accommodate hundreds of people while allowing them to maintain social distancing once indoor dining was allowed. He had three restaurants at the start of the pandemic in early 2020 and had 10 by the middle of last year after moving his businesses into several restaurants that had closed.
“I saw it as an opportunity,” Bonfiglio said in an interview last year.
“The restaurant industry is the hardest business I’ve ever been in,” he added.
He said the restaurants are a family business ― the umbrella company is called Triple T Hospitality ― with his wife and two daughters heavily 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 arrangements are being handled by the Holmdel Funeral Home. The owner of the home, Bill Boglioli, said services had not yet been finalized. Bonfiglio, of Rumson, died Friday evening at Riverview Medical Center, the death notice said. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Bonfiglio maintained his law practice until last year, according to a biography on his law firm’s website. It said he had been an attorney and a CPA for 30 years before his retirement. 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 down 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 in the Dockside, a restaurant in Sea Bright. He said he brought coal-fired pizza to the Jersey Shore in 2009 ― he called pizza “the most perfect food ever invented.” But he said he wanted variety, which led to his opening a Tommy’s Tavern in Sea Bright.
“I was an attorney for 30 years,” he said. “I had a long career, and I loved it. But I’m really enjoying this part.”
Bonfiglio continued working as an attorney for years but said he enjoyed being in the restaurant business with his family. He said in last year’s interview that his daughters both work in the business ― Andrea as the chief marketing officer and Christina as the chief brand officer.
“At the end of the day, it all boils down to family,” he said. “We make money, but it’s not motivated by money. It’s an extension of our house.”