|1 October 1941 Courier News|
The Belle Mead Development Company was affiliated with New York Acreage Estates, a real estate company controlled by W. M. McElroy with holdings in Hillsborough and Montgomery Townships and elsewhere in central New Jersey. The specific property leased by Mancini was called Sunnymead (or Sunnymeade) Farms and comprised the area in eastern Hillsborough north of Amwell Road, east of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and northward almost to Falcon Road, as shown on the map above.
|Detail from 1945 Hagstrom Map|
|1942 and 1943 ads from the Courier News|
At the end of Prohibition in 1933-34, Villa Firenze followed all of the other eateries in Hillsborough Township by applying for a liquor license. From then until the mid-1940s Villa Firenze was a destination for diners looking to get out to the countryside. Ads from the period advise motorists to Turn Left at the Wood's Tavern Intersection and proceed to Sunnymead Farm.
|1941-1943 ads from the Courier News|
As the name, and the Mancinis' background would suggest, Villa Firenze specialized in Italian Cuisine, and featured live music with dancing seasonally on the weekends, and on special occasions such as New Year's Eve.
On February 4, 1945, a fire which started in the boiler room of the tavern spread quickly through the house. The Montgomery Fire Department responded, but found no available water to fight the fire. The $25,000 building was a total loss, although half of the $10,000 of liquor was able to be rescued.
|20 June 1952 Home News|
Mancini ended up suing the railroad over the 1944 fire, and received a settlement of between $2,000 and 3,000 in 1948 - but it wasn't until June 21, 1952, that he returned to the restaurant business with the New Villa Firenze on Route 28 in Bridgewater, west of the Somerville Circle. He died in 1962, after which his wife sold the restaurant in 1963. The new owners changed the name to The Villa and ran the successful restaurant for another 32 years before closing in 1995.