HANOVER TOWNSHIP, N.J.- The iconic three story, nautical theme, red building just off Route 10 on the East Hanover - Whippany border that housed Billy and Madeline’s Red Room, is now nothing more than a pile of rubble in an empty lot.
On Tuesday June 6, a backhoe tore the 84 year-old structure down. The restaurant closed back in November of 2017, when a fire damaged it beyond repair.
Billy and Madeline Fornaro sat, watched, and reminisced as the building was razed, joined by Madeline’s sisters and many others who stopped by on and off during the day.
The fire, deemed an accident of an unknown cause by the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, reportedly started in the ground-floor kitchen area when the restaurant was closed.
The Fornaro's were in the upstairs apartment on the restaurant's third floor when their dog began barking because of the smoke from the fire.
In the chaos, the couple separated trying to find the dog and get out of the building. Two men who were passing by stopped when they saw the fire and helped Mrs. Fornaro climb out of a window.
Fornaro's father first opened the restaurant in 1933, he took over in 1959 and after marrying Madeline in 1980, added her name to the restaurant.
The restaurant was well known for its incredibly detailed interior, of which every possible inch of the ceiling and walls contained some sort of fishing or nautical décor. Fornaro was also well known for giving one dollar and a small bag of Sweedish Fish to every child who ate at his restaurant when he was there, which was pretty much all the time.
According Madeline Fornaro, "the property and the license are currently for sale." The couple plans to spend their days relaxing at their home in Brick NJ, where Billy can spend more time fishing.