Tina Aprea’s journey as owner of Angelo’s Little Italy in Amityville has been 53years in the making, since her dad took over the iconic Italian New York City eatery Angelo’s of Mulberry Street in 1970.
“I’ve always loved the restaurant business,” Aprea recalls. “It was always in my blood.”
The story of Angelo’s could have ended for good in 2017, when Aprea’s dad Giovanni Aprea died and the Little Italy landmark closed.
She admits that she could’ve just “packed up and moved to Florida,” but she kept thinking about how another incarnation of Angelo’s could work on Long Island. That led her to open an 80-seat, 22-table venue in Amityville this past August, close to where she resides.
“It’s a growing area that has lots of new development, including the recent Avalon apartments.”
Looking back, she recalls that her path to becoming involved in her dad’s restaurant business wasn’t as direct as some would imagine.
“My father was very old-school Italian, and he didn’t want me around boys,” she says. She had really wanted to work with her dad at first but was told that she wasn’t ready yet and that he wanted her to go to beauty school.
“I went to beauty school and graduated,” she says. “But, when it came to me standing too close to prospective male customers, my dad would have none of it … He then changed his mind about my career path and told me I could come learn the family business and work with him at the restaurant in Little Italy.”
Aprea, who recalls there was always “cooking around her house growing up,” got no special treatment at work and received hands-on training in the kitchen, where she did everything, including washing dishes, prepping foods, learning special recipes, and cooking everything from potatoes and rice balls to meatballs.
“I started to learn all the front-of-house operations [everything customers can see] until I was basically running the entire restaurant because my dad told me to learn the business from the inside out.” She says she spent nearly 30 years learning all aspects of the business, from cooking to hosting and bartending.
Her brother, Rino Aprea, is also a chef and operates two restaurants of his own, Ponte Vecchio in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Rino’s of Boca in Boca Raton, Florida.
While there are some changes at Angelo’s in Amityville, many things have not changed, such as the two chefs, Patricio Pastuizaca and Francesco Saquipulla, who both worked in the Little Italy location for more than 30 years.
“Their first job was with my dad. They started at the restaurant at age 17 doing dishes and then prep work before becoming chefs,” Apres says, adding that “Angelo’s was always their main job.”
Signature dishes have also traveled from the Manhattan restaurant to Amityville with customer favorites such as veal scallopini with eggplant, linguine Positano, spinach ravioli, chicken marsala and chicken parmigiana, pork chop sautèed with mild cherry peppers, homemade potato gnocchi, rigatoni meatballs and spaghetti with blue claw crab and spicy tomato sauce, and many other classics.
Desserts include such favorites as cannoli, tiramisu, Italian cheesecake, and profiterole, Italian cream puffs.
Customer reviews affirm that Angelo’s in Amityville is staying true to the Little Italy restaurant. One woman wrote, “Love, love, love this place, spent my youth going to Angelo’s in Little Italy…Everything was exceptional! The owner Tina is a doll, I will be back for sure.”
Chef Joe Gannascoli, former Sopranos actor and current private chef on Long Island, is a fan. Gannascoli recalls the Little Italy venue fondly. “I loved Angelo’s on Mulberry, and Ponte Vecchio in Bay Ridge, so I was excited they opened closer to where I live. I’m there at least twice a week. It’s SOOO good,” he says.
“Things are going well and reservations are picking up,” Aprea says, noting that she did little promotion before opening. “Many of our former New York City customers now travel to Amityville,” she says, adding that she aims to preserve her dad’s legacy.
Asked about any differences being on Long Island, she says the clientele tends to be more local in Amityville as opposed to more varied customers in Manhattan. She adds that diners on Long Island dine earlier, with her busiest times being from 6 to 7:30 p.m. as opposed to after 8 p.m. in the city.
She says that her current challenges are not unlike those faced by most current restaurateurs: high food costs and the unpredictable nature of the business.
“You need to buy quality food because that’s what people are coming here for,” she says. “But … you have to set a price structure that allows you to make a profit while not alienating customers.”
“We continue to use high-end ingredients such as premium olive oil and tomatoes from Italy. Our customers are very satisfied and that makes me happy.”
Talking about the business itself, Aprea admits, “It’s a tough business to get into. You need to have lots of capital because you must invest, stay focused, and know your kitchen.” She explains that the kitchen is the “brains of the operation” and that you need a good kitchen and staff to be successful.
Aprea says she has no plans to expand and just wants to focus on the new venue.
“The restaurant business is a 24-hour endeavor. You don’t know what’s coming around the bend, from bad weather to inconsistent reservations.” But she believes in sticking with success.
“I always say, ‘Don’t fix it if it’s not broken.”
Angelo’s Little Italy is located at 221 Broadway in Amityville. They can be reached at 631-464-4590 or visit https://angeloslittleitaly.com/