BIDDEFORD – A local family is taking over a piece of Biddeford’s history.

The Palace Diner, believed to be Maine’s oldest diner, is now under the management of the Capotosto family.

David Capotosto and his wife, Carmel, paid close to the $125,000 asking price and will operate it with their five children — Nicholas, 23, Paulina DeCastro, 21, Jonathan, 19, Samuel, 16, Benjamin, 13 — and son-in-law Vinicius DeCastro.

The iconic red building, with “Palace Diner” in golden block letters across the side, has been a Biddeford institution since 1927. Tucked just off Franklin Street, at the back of Shevenell Park, the diner was started by Louis Lachance and his brother-in-law.

In the early years, the diner was a hot spot for mill workers in the city. Since then, it has changed hands but remained a family-operated business.

Roland Beaudoin bought it from Lachance, then passed it on to his son. In 1997, Rick and Jo Bernier purchased it. They sold it to Kyle Quinn and his wife in 2005.

Throughout the years, the diner has had a regular customer base of local residents, business people, city officials and even a few tourists.

Quinn listed the 15-seat diner for sale three years ago. Nicholas Capotosto stumbled upon the listing recently when he did a Google search for restaurants for sale, and brought the idea to his family.

“We have been discussing for many years to run a restaurant together as a family,” David Capotosto said.

They weren’t looking for a diner, but after checking out the Palace Diner, they realized that cooking for 15 customers is something they practically do at home now. And that seemed more manageable than a 50- or 100-seat restaurant.

On Thursday, the diner’s doors were closed, the neon “open” sign was dark and “Spring Cleaning” signs hung on the doors. Customers were asked to return May 30 for the diner’s reopening.

Inside, the family was overseeing renovation of the kitchen, which was added to the building in the 1980s. The kitchen was gutted shortly after Quinn closed the diner on May 12, to be brought up to current restaurant standards, David Capotosto said.

He expects the kitchen to be in working order early next week, so they can practice cooking and plating food to serve.

Owning a restaurant is completely new to the family. David Capotosto’s background is as a manufacturer, engineer and design consultant. Some of the family members have worked in restaurants.

David Capotosto described his family as “foodies” who love to cook, eat, entertain and serve.

To start, they plan to keep the same hours that Quinn did, serving breakfast from 6 to 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Nicholas Capotosto will manage the kitchen while his brother Jonathan will run the counter, with the rest of the family filling in to staff the diner.

David Capotosto said that at some point this summer, they plan to add a lunch menu and stay open until 2 p.m.

They want to preserve the flavor of the diner, keeping the general appearance of the dining area and not changing the menu too much.

“We are working to preserve the authenticity,” said Nicholas Capotosto.

“When you come to a diner, you expect good basic food, a good quantity of food, and at a reasonable price,” said his father.

He hopes to surprise customers with a few “unusual things” added for lunch. A lunch special may be a traditional Italian pasta dish or Brazil’s national dish, feijoada — a stew of beans with beef and pork — drawing on David Capotosto’s Italian heritage and his son-in-law, who is from Brazil.

Carmel and David Capotosto saw the diner as a great enterprise for their family. They have homeschooled their children and are using the business venture as an educational tool. They have explored everything from finance and the food industry to health standards and diner history in America.

They hope that slice of “American culture” and history will keep diners coming back.

Said Nicholas Capotosto: “They may not know us, but they know the diner.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]