December 2, 2021

Red Dragon owners to close restaurant after 50 years

Kevin Conlon/city editor

Angelo “Butch” Maniccia and his wife, Sue, are closing the Red Dragon restaurant later this year after more than 50 years in business. They’re outside the pub on Wednesday.

After 50 years in business — 45 on Tompkins Street in Cortland — the Red Dragon restaurant will close its doors this year.

“We’ve had a lot fun,” said Sue Maniccia, who helps run the restaurant with her husband Angelo “Butch” Maniccia. “We kind of just decided after this pandemic now was the time to let it go.”

Not only are the Maniccias selling the restaurant, but the rental property next to it.

Butch Maniccia said he may go to Florida once they close up shop.

“I own properties down in Florida and I’ll probably try to develop those,” he said.

The restaurant started on North Main Street in 1970, but moved to 222 Tompkins St. in 1975 after the city took advantage of federal Urban Renewal funding to develop downtown Cortland.

“When I purchased that building (222 Tompkins St.) it was an architect’s office and it was shared with Smith Corona typewriter company then I developed it into a restaurant,” Butch Maniccia said.

The restaurant had originally started off a favorite spot for college kids to hang out before the drinking age was changed to 21 in 1985.

After that it became more of a family restaurant, Butch Maniccia said.

But for the Maniccia family, the restaurant business wasn’t something new.

Angelo “Ang” Maniccia, Butch’s father, started in the industry in 1948, owned the Hollywood Restaurant before buying the Hotel Cortland in 1960 and then selling that and going to work for Butch.

“He was a staple behind the bar,” Sue Maniccia said. “He was known for his Manhattans.” He worked there until he was 94.

Many families have gone to the restaurant, even growing up there. Sue Maniccia called those kids her dragon babies. It’s those people — the regulars — who the owners will miss most.

“The regulars that came in — it was kind of like the Cheers bar — everyone knew everyone,” Sue Maniccia said.

Tammy Timmerman, the president of the Cortland County Tavern and Restaurant Association, said it will be sad to see the Maniccias go.

“Butch and Sue have been a big part of the restaurant association for many years,” she said. “I’ve probably gone there 100 times.”

She said one of her favorite things was getting Ang Maniccia’s hot green peppers. “That wasn’t on the menu,” she said. “You had to know about that.”

But it’s time, Sue Maniccia said. She also said they are looking forward to spending time with their grandchildren and going on vacation without worrying about the business.

We just want to send a big thank you to all those that came in patronized and kind of became family,” she said. “It’s bittersweet.”