March 7, 1924 – Dec. 27, 2012

NORTH TONAWANDA – Esther Pane, the co-founder of Pane’s Restaurant, died Thursday in Cleveland Clinic. She was 88.

Born in Conflenti, Italy, the former Esther Paone and her family immigrated to the United States in 1932, settling in Lockport.

She and her husband, Peter Pane Jr., settled in North Tonawanda and raised seven children. Her husband died in 1988.

In 1959, Mrs. Pane and her husband converted a small tavern on Payne Avenue into a popular restaurant. The Italian-American restaurant grew from eight tables to seating for 350.

“She really, really enjoyed cooking,” said her son James K., who added that his mother was adept at “transforming the most ordinary ingredients” into mouthwatering dishes. “It was just her way of doing things.”

The restaurant’s menu is a testament to her cooking savvy, including family recipes for sauces and dressings. In particular, she was proud of her basic red sauce, her son added.

After retiring from the restaurant’s day-to-day operations in the 1990s, Mrs. Pane still took an active role as mentor, offering guidance and support to the family.

Survivors include two other sons, Peter III and Thomas J.; and two daughters, Margaret L. Jamulla and Rosemary Werth.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Our Lady of Czestochowa Catholic Church, Oliver Street and Center Avenue.