THIS GRASMERE RESTAURANT HAS BEEN UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP FOR TWO YEARS, BUT ITS MANAGEMENT REMAINS FOCUSED ON UPHOLDING THE ESTABLISHMENT’S STANDARDS
BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN
After enjoying an 18 year run as one of Staten Island’s most celebrated and popular upscale eateries, Bocelli Restaurant in Grasmere underwent some major proprietary changes two years ago. But for customers, the shift went almost unnoticed.
“We’ve been under new ownership for the past two years,” said Rob Hanley, Bocelli’s current general manager. “But the goal of the new owners was to upkeep the thriving Bocelli name and brand. The staff, the kitchen, the menu everything has remained the same. The restaurant has been delivering exceptionally high levels of food and service for years; the new owners wanted only to maintain that excellence.”
The restaurant, which was owned and operated for almost two decades by Stefano Sena and Vincent DeMonte, was purchased by Angelo Nicastro and Lenny Theodoulou in 2015 when Sena and DeMonte decided to amicably part ways. The new owners are no strangers to the business: Theodoulou owns the Page Avenue Diner in Tottenville and the Golden Dove in Eltingville, and together he and Nicastro manage several clubs and restaurants in Manhattan. As part of the deal, they convinced DeMonte to semi retire to stay at the restaurant in a managerial role.
“Vincent remained, playing a key role,” Hanley said. “Customers love his presence here, and he helps keep the quality of Bocelli consistent.”
Hanley, who worked as a trader on Wall Street before opening the Twisted Dish in Annadale, came on board as a full time general manager last year.
“I was living in North Carolina, running a country club, when Bocelli’s owners contacted me about coming on board,” Hanley said. “In all honesty, I missed Staten Island the Southern lifestyle didn’t really appeal to me so the decision to come to New York was easy. I had been a guest and customer at Bocelli since the late 1990s, so I was well aware of how great it was. I was moved back and in place within two weeks.”
As co general managers, Hanley and DeMonte work hard to maintain the restaurant’s original standards.
“We’re one of the only restaurants left on Staten Island where the waiters wear white shirts and black ties,” Hanley said. “It’s that type of attention to detail that customers appreciate. The quality of the food is consistent, the ambiance is gorgeous, and we know all of our regulars by name.”
Bocelli’s classic dishes and large portions remain. Guests are still presented with warm Pizza Rustica and fresh olives instead of a basic basket of bread. The restaurant’s famous Veal Chop, Champagne Pappardelle, and Chicken Valdostano continue to be favorites, and the Calamari Agrodolce sweet and sour fried shrimp and calamari served with raisins and pine nuts is still the most popular appetizer. “They’re classics that almost every Bocelli customer loves and expects,” Hanley said.
The walls are still splashed with murals of Italy’s Amalfi Coast and Tuscan Hills. “There’s such beautiful ambiance here,” Hanley said. “If you’ve never been inside Bocelli and you drive past this strip mall, you’d never know what type of beauty is inside.”
The owners expanded the party room in July, increasing its capacity to 140 guests. “Every weekend, we host multiple events there, so that was an important change,” Hanley said. “We’re now able to host weddings and other large scale parties.”
Hanley has also made a push to update Bocelli’s social media presence and is kicking around ideas for monthly functions. “We’d like to host a scotch and cigar night, maybe a charity card game something that would utilize our party room and provide guests with a fun night out. Our loyal guests have been coming here for a long time. We want to offer them something fun to do in their favorite place.”
For the GM, it’s a way to gain a broader customer base.
“I’m so enthusiastic about this position,” he concluded. “I’m proud of this restaurant and the Bocelli brand. I’m looking forward to enhancing it for many years to come.”
1250 Hylan Boulevard / 718.420.6150