Iconic Mazzaferro's Meats & Deli lost to flames

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ROME — Longtime Rome icon Mazzaferro's Meats & Deli is a total loss after a Friday fire started inside the building, according to the owner and city fire officials.

No employees or customers were injured. Thick, black smoke could be seen for miles around as the fire raged.

"When we got the call, the building was totally engulfed in fire. That's how the call came in," said Rome Fire Chief Thomas Iacovissi on the scene. The alarm was raised at about 1:10 p.m. Friday.

"We came down the boulevard and we saw the heavy black smoke, and we knew we had a fire that was fully involved," Iacovissi said.

Mazzaferro's Meats & Deli is located in north Rome at 7824 Ridge Mills Road, just beyond the business district on Black River Boulevard. The business opened in 1915, and moved to the current location more than two decades ago.

Mazzaferro's sells meats and other deli products, as well as hot food.

Owner Brian Mazzaferro said he was inside with several employees and customers when one of his workers saw smoke coming out of the cooler. 

"I was in the kitchen and she mentioned there was some smoke in the cooler. I opened the kitchen door and there was a ball of flames right off to the right side of the kitchen door," Mazzaferro said at the scene. He and several employees gathered in a parking lot across the street, many in tears as the building burned.

"I ran in to get the fire extinguisher. By the time I got back out, the flames were tenfold," Mazzaferro said.

"Five minutes, man, totally involved. Five minutes — not even, three minutes," the owner recalled.

"I went out there with the fire extinguisher and it was like holy! The heat pushed me out. I'm surprised it didn't burn my face."

Iacovissi said the first-responders launched an interior attack on the building, but heavy structural damage to the roof made it unsafe to remain inside.

"Initially they went inside to try to get it, but there was a big, heavy air conditioning unit from the roof that had fallen through, so we pulled everybody out," Iacovissi said.

Firefighters then surrounded the building with multiple hose lines to fight the bright orange flames. The department raised their aerial truck from the parking lot to shoot water down through the collapsed roof.

Onlookers said they could feel the heat from the fire even across the street. Dozens of people gathered to watch as the popular hometown market burned.

"I saw the flames and it just went up so quick," said customer Star Andrews, of Rome. She said she had just pulled into the shop shortly after 1 p.m. when she saw the smoke, then joined the employees and other customers as they fled the building.

"I've been coming to Mazzaferro's every Friday for years...This just hurts. I've gotten to be friends with some of the people that work there. It's so sad."

Fire Chief Iacovissi confirmed that everyone made it out safely from the building and there were no injuries.

"It's a total loss," the chief said. The fire was declared under control shortly before 3 p.m. The cause of the blaze will undergo a thorough investigation.

As for the fate of Mazzaferro's Meats & Deli, Brian Mazzaferro said he's already planning to rebuild.

"We're going to build back strong," Mazzaferro said, surrounded by his employees and loved ones. "Tenfold."

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