- Associated Press - Saturday, February 1, 2014

NORWALK, Conn. (AP) - In the more than 30 years since Partner's Cafe opened its doors in 1983, Super Bowl Sunday has always been a huge celebration at the deceptively unassuming and extremely popular sports bar and restaurant at the corner of First Street and Cove Avenue.

This year’s Super Bowl celebration at Partner's will be bittersweet for long-time customers and family of Tommy Spinola. Spinola, Partner’s owner and a smiling face to everyone who walked through the door, lost his battle with cancer in 2013.

To honor his legacy, his wife Debbie and her son, Partner’s manager Ernie Marsan, are determined to provide a Super Bowl party for customers that Tommy would have loved.

“For 30 years every day here was important to him, but the Super Bowl was really special,” Marsan said. “Because he was such a sports fan, it was one of his favorite days.”


As in prior years, the Super Bowl festivities at Partner's will include a buffet, complete with ribs, wings, salads and shrimp cocktail; door prizes; drink specials; and a raffle to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project, or WWP.

New this year, Partner’s will be raffling off a trip to the Bahamas, with those raffle proceeds also going to benefit the WWP.

“My two brothers, Steve and Nick, and I were all in the military, and Tommy was a big supporter of the Wounded Warrior Project for the past few years,” Marsan said. “The fund raises money to help soldiers and their families.”

A new addition to the Partner’s 40-seat dining room will be a big screen projector displaying the game.

“We have five TV’s in the bar, but have just one television in the dining room because we want to keep that dining room feel,” Marsan said. “We bought the projector and retractable screen for the dining room so that everyone can watch the game together. I expect that we’ll be using it for things like karaoake, and trivia and movie nights in the future.”

Marsan estimated that Super Bowl Sunday will bring in triple or quadruple the business seen on a typical Sunday.

“It’s a big day, the customers can’t wait. We already have quite a few reservations,” Marsan said. “Tommy set the wheels in motion here and we’re trying to keep things the way he wanted with a family atmosphere where people can relax and talk and watch the game together.”

Spinola’s formula for success in creating one of Norwalk’s oldest sports bars was simply to provide a home-like atmosphere in a comfortable setting.

“I’d call Partner’s a festive family pub,” said customer R. J. Dumser of Wilton. “It’s the corner bar you’d want in every neighborhood. They have great food and drinks, but also a real family feel that’s missing in this world.”

Marsan credits Dumser’s sentiment to Spinola’s enduring influence on Partner’s.

Tommy is here with us in spirit,” Marsan said. “My mom is doing a great job, she helped build this business. This was not only their livelihood, this was Tommy’s baby and his legacy. He used to say ‘if you can’t get to the game, get to Partner's Cafe.”

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