The beloved Victor Cafe in South Philly is at the center of an awful legal battle involving shady lawyers, videotaped testimony, and an aging matriarch that's being taken advantage of on both sides. The Victor, famous for operatic waitstaff and singing patrons has been sitting at 13th and Dickinson since 1920, founded by 89-year-old Lola DiStefano's father-in-law. Now, siblings from Philly and California are using powers of attorney against one another, as well as plans of putting DiStefano in a home in an attempt to gain control of the lucrative business.
The Victor Cafe started out as an RCA phonograph shop, where locals would gather to listen to their favorite recordings. The DiStefanos started serving wine and soon the place became a full-fledged restaurant with singing diners. By 1970, The Victor hired opera students to perform nightly as bus boys and servers, and was often seen as proving grounds for up and coming talent. Famous visitors and performers who made stops at The Victor include Luciano Pavarotti, Mario Lanza, and Enrico Ernest DiGiuseppe.
Recently, a judge overturned a ruling that gave complete control of the business to Daniel Glennon—a young lawyer Lola DiStefano knew for just a few weeks—for what was determined to be "undue influence by her lawyer and her daughter, Pamela Packard." Glennon had also convinced DiStefano to put all assets in a irrevocable trust he controlled, as well as receiving 1.5 percent of the first $1 million of the trust's assets and 1 percent of the value above that amount each year for serving as trustee. The move would put the restaurant in a good position to be sold and likely leave the hands of the family altogether.
The Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting that the legal battle should all be settled soon, but the whole story is all too common and really heartbreaking. We really hope that The Victor stays The Victor, and someone in that family steps up for Ms. DiStefano. Stay tuned.
Moral of the story: If you're mean to your mom, they'll put your picture in the paper.