Nicholas A. Zoto, Restaurateur dies at 83.
May 29, 1937 – January 1, 2021
It is impossible to count the number of people that Nick greeted, fed and came to know as friends over his 83 years. From Zoto’s Diner and his involvement in politics to his family and church, Nick touched the lives of many and has been a catalyst for change for all the things he held dear.
Born in Philadelphia to Albanian immigrant parents Anesti and Helen Zoto. Nick was the oldest of 4 children. His childhood centered around St John’s Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church, which his father helped found for the tight-knit and growing Albanian community. It was here he began to understand the important role that the church played in honoring their beliefs and heritage while they pursued the American dream.
He attended Bartram High school where he was class president in 1955. Compelled to fulfill his patriotic duty, he enlisted in the Army two days after his 19th birthday. After a tour in Korea, he was stationed in Ohio where he attended Youngstown University. He returned home in May of 1959, when his sister Nancy introduced him to Margaret Burdumi, who he later married. They spent the next 61 years together and had three children, Michael, Andrea, and Christopher.
Shortly after Nick and Marge were married, he and his father purchased his first diner, Zoto’s Grove, located on Red Lion Road in northeast Philadelphia. From there he turned his sights to Center City, where he bought and ran the Red Oak on Walnut Street. As a die-hard Eagles fan, he was thrilled to eventually sell the restaurant to a former Eagles running back.
He then teamed up with his younger brother Steve to build the famous Zoto’s Diner, which has been operating for close to 50 years. In the late ‘70s, he decided to try his hand at French cuisine. Nick and Steve purchased Cobblestones in Society Hill. It was there that they celebrated the marriage of their youngest brother James. His contribution was recognized with the 1992 Restaurateur of the Year Award and in 1996 with a Keystone Award from the Philadelphia Delaware Valley Restaurant Association.
After having achieved all these accomplishments, he felt the need to give back to the communities and organizations that helped him achieve his dreams. His love of business led him to the Philadelphia Small Business Advisory Council where he served as chairman from 1981-1983 under Mayor William J. Green. He continued as co-chairman until 1990 alongside Mayor W. Wilson Good, and as a member from 1990-1993 with Mayor Edward Rendell.
Nicholas served as delegate to the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas. On October 6, 1986 he received a citation from the House of Representatives for serving as a delegate for Pennsylvania to the White House Conference on Small Business.
Of all the accolades Nicholas received the one he was most proud of was his appointment in September 1985 as a member of the Presidents Commission on White House Fellowships. Working with Colin Powell, he marveled at the accomplishments of the candidates and seemed amazed that he was bestowed such an honor. He would say, “I’m just a kid from West Philly.”
In addition to his beloved wife Margaret, Nicholas is survived by his children: Michael Zoto and partner Jen Abramson of Huntingdon Valley, PA, Andrea Z. Shannon and her husband Senan of Cranbury, NJ and Christopher Zoto and his wife Marianne of Fountainville, PA, and his daughter-in-law Leslie Hickling-Zoto of Richboro, PA. He is also survived by his brothers: Stephen Zoto of Ambler, PA and James Zoto of Quakertown, PA and was preceded in death by his sister, Nancy Gregory. He is also survived by his 6 cherished grandchildren Alyssa, Quintin, Senan, Meaghan, Nicholas and Alexa.
Due to current Covid-19 Pandemic, services and interment will be privately held by the family.
In lieu of flowers please send donations to:
St. John Chrysostom Albanian Orthodox Church
237 N 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103