HANOVER, NJ- The iconic three story, nautical theme, red building just off Route 10 on the 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 methodically 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.
Billy and Madeline 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 two got 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 Madeline climb out a window. Billy was able to get out by himself through a back door on the first floor.
Video of the men helping rescue Madeline circulated around social media the day of the fire.
Billy’s father first opened the restaurant in 1933, and Billy took over in 1959. After marrying Madeline in 1980, Billy added her name to the restaurant.
The restaurant was well known for its incredibly detailed interior, of which every last possible inch of the ceiling and walls contained some sort of fishing / nautical décor. The items were too many to count and were well into the thousands.
Billy was also well known for giving $1 and a small bag of Swedish Fish to every child who ate at his restaurant when he was there, which was pretty much all the time.
According Madeline, "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.