DiMaggio's is a name familiar to probably all Port Washington residents, so it should come as no surprise to learn that next year, the first of the three restaurants under the DiMaggio banner, DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. Since its inception in 1978 the DiMaggio business has gone from strength to strength and now includes Il Forno and DiMaggio's On the Bay. Many people assume that the name DiMaggio's has some connection to the famous baseball player and one-time husband of Marilyn Monroe, however as far as the owners are aware there is no family connection. The founder of these restaurants, Angelo Giannuzzi, named his first establishment after his mother's family name; a token of appreciation to the lady who gave him his earliest experiences of good home-style Italian cooking.
DiMaggio's story is the story of the American dream. Angelo Giannuzzi came to America from Italy and while growing up on Long Island he became friends with Eddy Marinelli. Throughout high school Giannuzzi and Marinelli spent their spare time working in restaurants as busboys, waiters and bartenders. In 1978, at the grand age of 19, Giannuzzi opened his first restaurant in Port Washington, DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria and the rest as they say is history. The high school friends reunited when Marinelli started working for Giannuzzi and eventually he became Giannuzzi's business partner. In the late 1990s the two restaurateurs were looking at ways to expand their successful business and they joined forces with chef Rudy Miranda. Miranda became a partner in their second restaurant in Port Washington, Il Forno, in 1999 and only two years later when a prime location became available, the three partners opened the biggest of their restaurants so far, DiMaggio's On the Bay.
While all three restaurants share a commitment to providing the highest possible quality in both food and service, each has its own very individual and recognizable style. DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria located at 706 Port Washington Boulevard was the first "DiMaggio" restaurant. As its name suggests it offers authentic home-style Italian favorites including pizza, veal and its very special signature dish, Grandma's Lasagna. This small and somewhat low-key restaurant offers a cozy atmosphere that is very children friendly.
In 1999 the second "DiMaggio" restaurant opened in Port Washington at 179 Main Street and is known as Il Forno. Il Forno is the most sophisticated of the three restaurants and it has a special place in the owners' hearts because they put so much of themselves into it. They designed the interior from the ground up without help from a designer and did much of the construction work including all the carpentry and spent two months painting the four stunning murals. They put in a brick oven and now offer hard-to-find delicacies such as rabbit and ostrich as well as upscale versions of all the Italian favorites such as Osso Bucco.
In 2001, the third and largest establishment was opened at 45 Orchard Beach Blvd. and is aptly named DiMaggio's On the Bay. While the owners continue to focus on the quality of the food and service, Marinelli admits that the location of this restaurant alone makes it a sure-fire winner. On a cold winter's day diners can sit in the warm interior and gaze out at the largest Marina on the north shore admiring the boats and the view beyond. In the summer, the outside decking offers plenty of opportunity to fine-tune the appetite with the fresh sea air and a cocktail or two. Because of the size and location of this restaurant the owners chose a more American style menu but they still manage to bring an Italian flair to it.
The restaurants are not just a business for the men but a part of their family lives. Marinelli met his wife of eight years, Marianne, at DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria. Formerly the food editor at Good Housekeeping Magazine, Marianne still makes the delicious Italian cheesecake served in both Il Forno and DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria. Giannuzzi's wife, Theresa, is an accomplished artist and painted the four giant murals depicting Tuscan landscapes at Il Forno. When asked what is so special about Port Washington that he would want to own three restaurants here Marinelli said, "Port Washington has a good mix of good people." Likening it to his favorite topic, Italian food, Marinelli said, "We are like a big bowl of minestrone, we have the perfect mix of a little bit of everything and that makes Port Washington unique. I met my wife here 10 years ago and we are raising our three children here. I love it." Of the celebrations for the 25th anniversary Marinelli said that there is nothing special planned but he said, "We do want to take this opportunity to thank all the local people who have supported us over the years." He said, "We treat every year as if it's our first year and treat every customer as if they were our first customer."
While one doesn't necessarily need an excuse to go out and enjoy the excellent dining establishments in Port Washington, the approach of their silver anniversary could be a great opportunity to introduce yourself to or make a return visit to one or even all of the three DiMaggio restaurants.
For more information call DiMaggio's Restaurant and Pizzeria at 944-6363.