STATEN ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE FAVORITE CULINARY DISHES, THEIR PERSONAL STYLES, AND WHAT INSPIRED THEM TO ENTER THEIR INDUSTRY

BY JESSICA JONES-GORMAN AND AMANDA MCCOY PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH, ALEX BARRETO, AND TOM ZAPCIC

 

 

Peter Botros
Chef/Owner, The Stone House, Chef’s Loft, Violette’s Cellar, Sofia’s Taqueria, Rustic Pizza & Pasteria, Sally’s Southern

The seed that would one day grow into a mini empire of vibrant Staten Island restaurants was planted in chef Peter Botros at a tender age. “Growing up, I watched my grandmother, aunt, and mother pour their hearts into painstakingly preparing meals for our family almost daily,” he said. “I found myself mesmerized watching them and always excited to help with basic tasks when they would let me.”

His fascination with flavors continued to simmer into adulthood, and after a significant health scare, the chef decided to go all in on his lifelong passion: opening restaurants. Today, he helms several eateries on the Island across a wide spectrum of cuisines, from elevated comfort fare at Sally’s Southern to tacos and tequila at So a’s Taqueria to bubbling Sicilian pies at Rustic Pizza & Pasteria and more. A devoted fan of different cuisines, Botros noted he always has one or two new concepts up his chef’s sleeve at any given time.

“Food is such a creative outlet for me, and I could never run out of combinations of flavors and techniques to explore,” he said. “I definitely don’t like to be basic in any way. I find the most fun and satisfaction in creating unique dishes and concepts, and when I do follow traditional dishes, I almost always need to put a fun and innovative twist on them.”

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WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
I’ve always had a passion for great food! Especially experiencing new flavors and techniques from various cultures’ cuisines. After being diagnosed with and ultimately beating cancer, I decided that I would follow my passion for food into restaurants.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
It’s a very hard question to answer for someone who loves food as much as I do. I’m particularly drawn to trying new flavors and combinations that I haven’t been exposed to. To answer this question based on today, the answer would have to be Korean Fried Chicken at Boka (St. Mark’s Pl, Manhattan).

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
I’d describe my style as controlled chaos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samantha Afendoulis
Director of Marketing, Emily’s of New York emilysny.com

Samantha Afendoulis is a 31-year-old New Jersey native who got her start in the fashion industry in 2015, handling all marketing responsibilities at Emily’s of New York, her mother’s longstanding women’s clothing boutique on Staten Island. Initially determined to build a career in the music industry, Afendoulis spent six years co-managing a recording studio in Manhattan while simultaneously handling the social media and marketing aspects of Emily’s on nights and weekends. In spring 2021 and after several years of involvement at Emily’s Afendoulis decided to shift her career into the fashion industry full time. Today she continues to handle all of the marketing for Emily’s, as well as contributing heavily in the operational aspects of the business. She strives to introduce a fresh, youthful perspective into the business and grow the next generation of Emily’s clientele. Additionally, she hopes to become an increasingly important part of the buying and selling process alongside her mother, Emily Rassias, as she deepens her involvement in the industry. Music is still an integral part of her everyday life, providing the daily soundtrack for her Asbury Park to Staten Island commute five days a week and her runs along the boardwalk. In her spare time, you can look for her in a sea of people at her favorite music venue, the Stone Pony, laying on the beach, or searching for the next show to captivate her the way Lost did.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
My mother started her business in 1982, so technically I was born into the fashion industry! But it wasn’t until recently that I decided that this is what I wanted to do with my career. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to watch my mother build an extremely successful business. In this industry, you realize that by simply dressing people, you become an integral part of their lives. That’s a special feeling. That bond, along with the idea of having something to call your own and having the opportunity to build on it for years to come really influenced my decision to devote myself to the industry. Being your own boss isn’t so bad, either.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
Penne alla Vodka from Trattoria Romana, a beloved restaurant on Staten Island that sadly closed its doors in 2021.

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
Intentional, elegant, empowering.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristine Garlisi
Chief of Staff, The Nicotra Group Executive Director, The Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation

In her role as chief of staff for the Nicotra Group, Staten Island’s largest private real estate developer and premiere hospitality organization, Kristine Garlisi works closely with owners Lois and Richard Nicotra and their team, tenants, guests, and local community to launch programs that enhance the environment and celebrations at the Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, and within the 415-acre Corporate Park of Staten Island. Fully supporting the vision that the entrepreneurs have for their community, companies, team members, and foundation, Garlisi has been a strong advocate for many of the Nicotras’ special projects, including the development of Corporate Commons Three, the most expansive development in their portfolio.

A double alumna of St. John’s University, graduating first in her class from the Staten Island campus with an undergraduate degree in Communications, Garlisi earned a master’s degree in Government and Politics and a Certificate in Public Administration from the Queens campus while serving as the assistant dean for student life. She served as an adjunct professor at St. John’s University for more than a decade and worked at St. John’s as an administrator, first in Student Affairs and then as the major gift officer and director of development and institutional advancement for the university’s Staten Island campus.
Garlisi serves as spokesperson for the Nicotras’ hotels, Nicotra’s Ballroom, Above, Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Bar & Cabaret, the Nicotra Group, and the Nicotra Foundation. She co-founded a group called LOVE Staten Island as an extension of the Nicotras’ community building efforts; the Facebook group is local in focus and gained more than 7,000 highly engaged members in two years.

Married to Roy, an Emmy award-winning Editor at World News Tonight with David Muir, Garlisi is the mother of two daughters, Grace and Katherine. She has volunteered extensively at her daughters’ schools, serving on the executive board of every school they’ve attended and launching two social media programs to engage other parents to lend their time and talents to the schools.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
Lois and Richard Nicotra inspired me to enter the world of hospitality and real estate. I had previously known them in their work as philanthropists and first worked for them to support the establishment of the Lois & Richard Nicotra Foundation. Their passion for every aspect of supporting their employees, tenants, and guests both educated and fueled my interest in this field.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
My go-to comfort dish is at our beautiful, linen table cloth Lorenzo’s Restaurant, Bar & Cabaret, and it’s an unexpected recommendation that I often make to guests traveling to our hotel: the Lorenzo’s Burger is my absolute favorite dish. It’s a classic burger that is so satisfying!

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
Professional, classic, and thoughtful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brittany Emigoltz
Owner, Peek-a-Boo Children’s Boutique peekaboochildrens.com

When Brittany Emigoltz was just 16 years old, she took a job at Peek-a-Boo Children’s Boutique in New Dorp steaming clothes. “Joan DiBella owned the store and I admired her so much,” said Emigoltz. “I loved the way she ran the store and she taught me a lot about what it’s like to own your own business. I was just a kid and it was my first job but I already knew that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.”

Fifteen years later, Emigoltz is now the owner of the longstanding and well respected kids clothing shop.

“I’ve been the owner since 2012,” she said. “Honestly, this store is my life. My customers are like my family. I love what I do and I love coming into this store every day and interacting with the parents and grandparents who have shopped with us for years.”

Locally famous for its collection of layettes and designer pieces for infants and toddlers, Peek-a-Boo has been a go-to children’s shopping destination on Staten Island for decades. When Emigoltz took over nine years ago, she continued the store’s traditions but modernized the shop by adding a strong social media presence.

“Instagram has pushed the business in an entirely new direction,” she noted.

People love seeing the products and sometimes order them before coming into the shop. Social media helped us survive COVID and it has offered us a great way to keep in touch with our shoppers.”

And those shoppers love that Emigoltz has been with Peek-a-Boo for so long.

“I’m still serving the same customers; now, they’re just buying for a different generation,” she said. “It’s a fun industry because you’re assisting people with beautiful times in their lives births, communions, weddings. This is a very special business.”

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO ENTER YOUR INDUSTRY?
I started working in this store when I was just 16. I admired the owner, Joan, so much and I honestly wanted to be her.

ALL-TIME FAVORITE CULINARY DISH? FROM WHERE?
Penne alla Vodka from La Strada

DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL FASHION STYLE IN THREE WORDS?
Casual and chic with a little edge.