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Delta Tau Delta alumni throw birthday bash for former chef Aldo Costantino

By Kate Helm

For the alumni of Delta Tau Delta’s Nu Chapter, Super Bowl weekend had nothing to do with football and everything to do with honoring a man who was their chef, brother, and friend.

They converged on Lafayette’s campus Feb. 2 to join Aldo Costantino and his family for his birthday celebration. Costantino turned 77 on Feb. 3.

“It was the most wonderful thing anyone could ask,” says Costantino, who was the fraternity house’s chef for two decades. “The brothers are like real brothers to me. They’re fabulous. It meant an awful lot to me; the respect was unbelievable.”

Costantino began his career as a cook at age 16, when his half-brother left the Navy and opened Tron’s Restaurant on College Hill. When his brother began managing the College Inn in front of Kirby House, Costantino joined him and made the move to the Phi Delta Theta house in 1951. In 1968, he became the cook for the Delta Tau Delta house until the chapter closed in 1988. He then cooked for the brothers of Zeta Psi until his retirement in 1996.

Although he touched the lives of multiple groups, Costantino feels the strongest connection with Delta Tau Delta, which made him an honorary brother in the 1970s.

“One thing that was very important to me was that Delta had made me a brother,” he recalls. “The guys were fabulous; all the kids at Lafayette were fabulous people. I loved to go to work because it was a pleasure. They made my life a lot easier.”

Party organizer Gregory Eggert ’79 wanted to make sure that as many brothers as possible would make the trip back to campus to honor Costantino. Five members of Phi Delta Theta also joined the celebration.

“He was a special person to all the brothers of DTD,” says Eggert, an economics and business graduate. “Al actually turned 77 on Sunday, but I thought I’d have a greater chance of getting people to turn out if I said it was his 75th. I hope my brothers forgive this white lie, but Al said he’d be delighted to be two years younger. The good news is that in three years we’ll be celebrating his 80th birthday together. Al was the one person who connected us all. We wanted to make it a special day for him; we wanted to show how much we appreciated him. He was important to people.”

Memories overflowed when the brothers began catching up with Costantino. Many credit him with making it easy to attract female students to the DTD meal plan.

“Since there were no social living groups for women at Lafayette for most of the 1970s, it was a nice alternative to be a dining member at a fraternity house,” says Spanish graduate Bonnie Butler ’79. “I was privileged to have met Al while a dining member at DTD. Aside from being a great cook, Al always had a smile and a kind word for each of us. I particularly remember the DTD brothers dimming the dining room lights before Al’s Baked Alaska Flamb� would be served. His specialty dessert was always a wonderful end to a great evening at the Delt house.”

History graduate Ed Fager ’81 remembers the year the brothers chipped in to buy Costantino, an avid hunter, a shotgun for his birthday.

“When we gave the gift to him, he humbly said, ‘You guys just keep giving and giving and giving,’” says Fager. “I thought to myself at the time how easy it was for 50 men to spend ten minutes trying to figure out what to get one man. That was easy compared to one man giving to 50 men every day. He was the one who was giving and giving and giving.”

Economics and business graduate Fred Krumm ’74 looked forward to returning each year for Homecoming celebrations because he knew he’d be starting the weekend with a breakfast prepared by Costantino.

“Al was the glue that held the Delt house together,” he says. “He was much more than a cook – he was a friend, adviser, and most of all, a brother. Years after my graduation, I was always excited to return to the Delt house each year for Homecoming. For me, the real spirit of DTD at Lafayette was renewed each year in the basement kitchen where Al would greet each of us with a warm smile and a specially prepared breakfast before the game. Al is truly a humble, selfless man. But it goes beyond that. A story of perseverance and redemption, Al really is an inspiration to all of us whose lives he touched.”

For economics and business graduate Mike Gorman ’77, Costantino was a steadying influence in his life as an undergraduate.

“Al was like the uncle you always admired and were willing to share things with that you couldn’t say at home,” he says. “I had the pot-washing job back in the early ’70s. Al knew I was short on cash and got me a job with his brother at the Elks Club in Phillipsburg. It was the kind of thing he did. On some of my bad nights, I would leave a note on the coffee pot, which he filled every morning, so he would wake me and I might get another hour of study or ensure I didn’t miss that 8 a.m. class. Not too many people care about you in that way and Al had no obligation to do so. It was just part of his being such a good-hearted soul, and the caretaker of the Delts.”

Costantino enjoyed the opportunity to catch up with the members of Delta Tau Delta and find out what they’ve been up to since they left his kitchen.

“I’d just like to thank them all for putting such an effort into my birthday party,” he says. “It was beautiful. When my wife of 24 years passed away 33 years ago, they were so good. It was difficult to go to work, but they were so helpful. They made it easy for me to continue, as well as my three wonderful daughters. I just couldn’t thank them enough for all they’ve done.”

Categorized in: Alumni