AUBURN – It’s a full house at Rolandeau’s Restaurant and bartender Nick Talarico is in constant motion. He’s pouring drinks and serving food and cleaning up after customers.

As he moves from one end of the room to the other, his customers hit him with wisecracks. But for every jab they send his way, Talarico has a retort that’s twice as funny and the whole place cracks up.

When it comes to Nick Talarico, who has been tending bar at Rolandeau’s for nearly 43 years, looks are definitely deceiving.

“When I first met him,” recalls Claudette Reny of Lewiston, “I saw this neat little man who looked like Mr. Clean. Mr. Perfect. He was so immaculate, showing customers wine with a clean white towel draped over his arm. I thought, well I’m not going to have any fun with this guy. He looks so strait-laced.”

Talarico wandered by, said something exquisitely amusing, and got Reny laughing. They’ve been friends since.

“He is so, so funny,” Reny said. “He’s very professional with his customers, but once you get to know him, he’s as funny as they come.”


The funny was definitely on display Friday night as dozens flocked to Rolandeau’s the night before the restaurant closes for good.

Owner Roland Nadeau announced last month that it would close May 12 after 47 years, giving way to a church that bought the building.

“It’s only right that a church is taking over this place,” said Talarico, pouring another drink and setting it on a tray Friday night. “It’s like a confessional in here. Oh, the stories I’ve heard.”

A small, wiry man dressed completely in black, he was mostly a blur as he tended to customers that filled every seat and bar stool in the place. Yet every time he came to rest, someone wanted to hug him, shake his hand or just say thanks for a lot of good years.

“We love Nick,” said Kathleen Bryant, who has been coming to the bar for 10 years or so. “It’s his charm, let’s put it that way. He is very, very charming.”

“It’s a fun place to be,” said Abby Hodsdon, eating dinner that Talarico served and sipping one of his drinks. “He’s very warm and very funny.”


Hodges and Bryant exchanged a look.

“And sarcastic,” the women said, almost in unison.

At this, Talarico rolled his eyes and went about his work.

“We’re going to miss him so much,” Donna Barnies said.

“He just makes everything so much fun,” her husband, Mark, said.

The couple like it at the bar so much, they’ve had a standing reservation there on Friday nights for 20 years.


“He saves us a seat at the bar regardless of what time we are going to get here,” Donna Barnies said.

In the mid-1970s, Talarico began waiting tables a local restaurant named Happy Jacks. A short time later, he was invited to tend the bar at the fairly new Rolandeau’s on Washington Street, and there he has remained ever since.

For his regular customers, Talarico is good reason to come back to the bar week after week.

“He’s such a great guy,” said Kerry Eldridge, occupying a stool at the very end of the bar. “We’ve had a lot of great times together.”

During the few rare moments when Talarico could talk about his long career, it became clear at once that he’s enjoyed the work, and enjoys it still.

“All the memories I have are good,” he said. “Really. I’ve carried more babies around here while their parents ate. Now those babies are having children of their own and I’m carrying THEM around.”


He waxed nostalgic for a moment or two, but as soon as he realized his customers were listening, he snapped right back into character.

“I love doing this,” he quipped. “Aside from all these people, that is. They really make it difficult.”

Again, the barroom roared with laughter.

What will he do after Friday night when he’s no longer tending bar? He’ll spend more time with his horses, Talarico said – and that segued into another joke about the similarities between horses and bar customers.

He shovels up after the horses in the morning, he said, and then comes to work to listen to bull all day.

Talarico also works part time at a Lewiston hospital, which he plans to keep doing.

On Friday night, Talarico was doing all the things he’s been doing for 43 years. Serving dinner and cleaning up. Taking drink orders and carrying trays all over the place.

He had no plans to skip out of work early, he said, and hustle off to semi-retirement. As far as Talarico was concerned, it was business as usual until all the work was done.

“I’m here until the very end,” he said. “And that’s OK.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: