Newest Tommy's Owners Move in

As Thursday night became Friday morning, everything seemed peculiarly normal at Tommy's House of Pizza on Mt. Auburn Street.

Laughter and camaraderie mixed with orders of french fries and Italian subs. As always, study-stressed Adams House residents came to eat greasy pizza and unwind with a few games of pinball.

But almost everyone there knew this would be the last night before new managers took over--new managers allegedly committed to serving healthier food at the Square's greasiest dive.

"I will miss the days when you could take a napkin and wipe off all the grease," said Kevin C. Murphy '97 as he stood in line at a few minutes past midnight to buy his final slices of pizza from the current regime.

The mood was at the same time upbeat and sad. Students lamented the passing of Tommy's and remembered all the reasons they loved the place--the grease, the (fairly) reasonable pizza prices, the grease.

"Tommy's used to symbolize cheap, greasy slices, you know?" said Yoritaka Sakahura '97.

End of an Era?

At 11 a.m. yesterday, the new owners, Michael T. McHale and Jeff A. Stuklus, took over and opened for business.

"This morning, we just showed up, and we were in," Stuklus said.

While McHale said earlier this week that the store would move to healthier food, he appeared to back away from that statement yesterday. The new owner said greasy goodies may stay if students demand them.

"The only thing set in stone is that we own the place," McHale said.

No changes, McHale said, will happen immediately.

"There's a lot of things that have to happen. We want to get our menu set, see what the students want," McHale said. "It's like your first day at a new job. We have a few ideas, but we're going to implement them and see what we get."

He said Tommy's would still close at 3 a.m. each morning and would still offer free delivery.

McHale said he plans to add a television, jukebox and brand new video games.

He said that, whatever name his ownership group chooses for the restaurant, it will become a proving ground for unreleased video games.

In that spirit, he said, he will have interhouse video game competitions at Tommy's in an attempt to draw customers.

Local Legend

Tommy's has been a popular late-night food stop for students in Adams House ever since it opened its doors 36 years ago.

"When the food really sucks [in the dining hall], we just go over there," said one Adams resident, who wished to remain anonymous.

Some people still miss Tommy Stephanian, the original owner who sold the restaurant in November 1992.

"He was a classic Bostonian--obnoxious," said Dan L. Stone '96. "That was one of the draws."

In fact, Stephanian dropped by his old restaurant Friday afternoon to greet the new owners.

"He said, 'Hi. I'm Tommy,'" McHale said. "And I just said, 'Hi. I'm Mike.'"

McHale said Stephanian had read about the sale in Thursday's Crimson and had dropped by to introduce himself and wish them good luck.

Stephanian could not be reached for comment yesterday afternoon.

Some students said much of the first Tommy's mystique changed when owners Zaharias Mougros and Alex Bafris brightened the restaurant's dark, gloomy interior after purchasing the restaurant from Stephanian two years ago.

For his part, Mougros said he is disappointed to be leaving. He and Bafris will be opening a new, larger restaurant in Stoneham.

"I love Harvard. I like the kids like my own sons," he said. "I feel very good for them, and never have problems with them."

Health Nut

The changes made by the new owners, however, may go much further than lightening up the interior. Despite his avowed "wait-and-see" attitude, McHale's previous history in Harvard Square suggests the fat might not last on the grill much longer.

McHale was previously the manager at Bruegger's Bagel Bakery, three blocks west of Tommy's.

"We worked up the street for three years, so we have a pretty good idea what the student clientele is looking for," McHale said.

Scott W. Hartford, current general manager of Bruegger's, said McHale has never been a fast-food aficionado.

"From what I understand, he was very concerned with serving healthy food," Hartford said.

In fact, Hartford said Bruegger's has always focused on serving nutritious foods--the exact opposite of what Tommy's has meant to its patrons. Hartford said he does not know whether McHale will bring his "health food" philosophy to Tommy's.

"We try to cater to vegetarian tastes as much as possible," he said.

Hartford said McHale left Bruegger's in order to open his own restaurant.

"I hope it's a success," he said. "I've heard nice things about him."

The transition to new ownership has not been smooth. Questions surround the status of the site's health license.

McHale first claimed his lawyer had filed for a Common Victualer license with the Cambridge License Commission last week. Such a filing is required to transfer licenses held by the previous manager to new owners.

But Richard V. Scali, executive officer of the Cambridge License Commission, said McHale will not officially file until Tuesday. Scali said the matter would not come before the commission before November 1.

Until the matter is resolved, the restaurant will remain under the management of second owner Alex Bafris.

McHale said Bafris had agreed to continue as the nominal license holder until the transfer become official.

This means that Bafris is legally responsible for health issues at Tommy's--even though McHale claims he doesn't have Bafris' phone number and has no way to contact him.

"I haven't even met Alex [Bafris]," McHale said.

Efforts to reach Bafris yesterday afternoon were unsuccessful.

Many students said they will give the new restaurant a chance. Some even said they are looking forward to a healthier atmosphere.

"I'm glad they're changing hands," said Meredith F. Alexander '96. "I think their pizza's disgusting."

But many others came Thursday night to say goodbye to an icon, a haven from textbooks and term papers.

"We live here. It's very sad," said Brian M. Gordon '97. "Every night at 11, or 11:30, or midnight, we come to Tommy's.