By Dari Kotzker
It’s lunchtime at Rossi’s Bar and Grill, and this 80-year-old family-run Chambersburg establishment is packed. Known for its iconic 16-ounce “Rossiburger” and famous customers like sports legend Joe DiMaggio, this one-time speak easy will be closing shop in Trenton and moving to a new, undisclosed location in nearby Hamiltion.
“Most of our customers are in Hamilton now. We need a bigger location, we need parking and so I think that’s why we’re moving,” said owner Michael Rossi.
“It’s going to be very bittersweet because we look at it first as a family home before a restaurant and the people that come in here, they are family to us, they’ve been coming for so long,” said owner Sharon Jemison.
The owners also say the neighborhood has changed over the years.
“The climate has changed in Chambersbug. Just like my grandparents did 80 years ago, they came and started businesses here. The Central American people are doing it here too and they’re doing a good job,” said Rossi.
Rossi’s moving is part of the mass exodus of Chambersburg establishments that have left Trenton. Ten years ago, there were about 25 Italian restaurants in this neighborhood and now there’s only one left — Amici Milano. The owner says he used have 10,000 customers in a month, and now he’s lucky if he gets 1,500.
“People say no safety, very dangerous area. I lost 75 percent of my business in this way, I suffer here not because of me, because of administration,” said Amici Milano owner Jimmy Kamies.
Trenton’s city council president agrees that crime, police layoffs and what he says is a “corrupt administration” are to blame for this loss.
“I was a police officer for 40 years. I see the neighborhoods just deteriorate. It’s like cancer, just infested the areas and nothing was being done,” said George Muschal.
The council president believes there is a chance for this neighborhood to revitalize.
“Once we get rid of the administration that’s in there and do a clean sweep of the administration, a clean sweep,” said Muschal.
Amici Milano’s owner says he plans to keep his doors open for the foreseeable future. As for Rossi’s, they’ll close their doors in March and reopen in their new location in April, and customers say they will follow them.
“Wherever he goes, I will follow him to the ends of the earth because it’s impossible not to stay with them, impossible,” said resident Richard Migliaccio.
“They follow us for the camaraderie. The food is terrific, but with this type of place, they come in to see people they know and they’re friendly with and they’re family with and that’s why they’ll come,” said Jemison.
Rossi’s will have a partner in its new endeavor — the owner of Marsilios, another longtime Chambersburg eatery, that relocated to Ewing a few years ago.