John Rutkowski, of John’s Pancake House and the Montauk Movie

Feb. 2, 1926 - June 21, 2018
John Rutkowski, Feb. 2, 1926 - June 21, 2018

John F. Rutkowski, the former owner of John’s Pancake House and the Montauk Movie and a Navy veteran who served in World War II and the Korean War, died of cancer on June 21 at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. He was 92 and had been ill for two years. 

Born on Feb. 2, 1926, in Jersey City to the former Adolphina Zmijewska and Stanislaw Rutkowski, he moved with his family to East Hampton when he was 5 years old. During World War II while a student at East Hampton High School, he was drafted into the Navy and later received a general equivalency diploma while in the Naval Reserve. He worked at odd jobs before being called back to serve in the Korean War. 

It was while working as a bartender at Bill’s Inn, a popular Montauk hangout, that he met Rose Spano, the woman to whom he was married in 1961.

Making his first foray as a restaurant owner in the 1950s, he opened Johnny’s Luncheonette and Stationery in Montauk. 

In 1967, he moved from East Hampton to the hamlet and started Mr. John’s Pancake and Steak House, which he owned until about 1980.  The eatery, which remains a presence on Main Street, eventually dropped the word “steak.” The following year, Mr. Rutkowksi bought the Montauk Movie, which his family continued to run until it closed in 2014. 

Mr. Rutkowski is survived by his wife, his children, David, Thomas, and Elizabeth Rutkowski, all of Montauk, and two grandchildren. There was no service. 

A blessing of Mr. Rutkowski’s ashes will take place at St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church in Montauk before they are buried at Fort Hill Cemetery. Donations in his memory have been suggested to the Montauk Ambulance Company, 12 Flamingo Avenue, Montauk 11954, or to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Avenue, New York 10065, or giving.mskcc.org.