The many regulars who frequent Grissini—a veritable institution for both classic Italian dishes and inventive regional fare—might think owner Tony Del Gatto is overworked. While they could be right, Del Gatto would disagree, despite his presence in the Englewood Cliffs restaurant night after night. “I happen to really enjoy it,” the dedicated restaurateur insists, adding, “When you do what you love to do, that’s a great thing.”
Not only is Del Gatto’s passion a boon for him, it’s also pretty great for Grissini’s patrons, who hail from the well-heeled surrounding community and beyond, often becoming loyal devotees after sampling the flavors of Chef Giuseppe Lentini, who was born and raised in Bari, Italy. “He’s a very talented guy,” says Del Gatto, who takes his own turn in the kitchen on Saturday nights, when he prepares the traditional Sunday family dinner by putting the same loving care into recipes as his mother once did. While some nights at Grissini may be more suited for hot dates in a fine-dining atmosphere (complete with the much-talked about row of luxury cars out front), Sundays are decidedly family-friendly, with zeppoles and other complimentary treats doled out to delighted kids and their parents. Del Gatto enjoys it just as much as do his patrons. “I’m on the third generation with some [families],” he explains.
The staff members at Grissini reflect the close-knit clans they serve, says Del Gatto. “We’re like one big, happy family.” Perhaps it’s his employees’ job satisfaction that is the secret to Grissini’s success—consistency, not only with the well-crafted cuisine, but with the way patrons are treated. “The customers are always right, and they’re always treated with the utmost respect,” Del Gatto says.
By Jessica D’Amico