Mike Sergio, owner of the eponymous and well-known Sergio’s Italian Restaurant of Massapequa, has been in the restaurant business for more than five decades. In that time, he’s done it all; cooked, cleaned, worked the bar and just about anything else you can think of.
A Lindenhurst resident, Sergio has enticed Long Islanders with his outstanding cuisine and unique sense of showmanship at his Merrick Road restaurant for 35 years and counting. His establishment, decorated in a classy, traditional Italian fashion, is both formal yet cozy at the same time and customers often find themselves feeling right at home soon after walking in its doors.
“I’ve been coming here for many years…probably more than 30,” said longtime patron Edna Connors, who had just settled into a booth and was mulling over a lunch menu one afternoon. “It’s the food that keeps me coming back and the treatment as well. Everyone here is very friendly and Mike makes me feel very comfortable.”
Sergio got his start in the food industry early in life, learning the ropes of his lifelong trade well before he even reached the age of 10.
“I started as a kid in Brooklyn when I was 8 years old…cooking, coffee boy, everything,” he said. “When I was 12, I moved to Long Island and started at a place called Amato’s in Amityville and over time, I did everything there. I was a cook, bartender, and as an adult I eventually became the manager for many years.”
Thanks to Sergio’s natural skills in dealing with people and his hard-earned experience in the business, Amato’s enjoyed a great deal of success. However, after the owner passed away and his son took the establishment over, Amato’s era of prosperity quickly came to an unfortunate end.
“I tried to tell him that he needed to run the business like his father did, but he didn’t want to listen…he didn’t know what he was doing and the restaurant was ruined because of it,” said Sergio. “Things started going downhill fast there, so I decided it was time for me to leave. However, I wanted to continue in the restaurant business…it was all I knew how to do and I enjoy people, so I decided it was time to finally open my own place.”
The building housing Sergio’s has been a restaurant in one form or another since 1940. Originally, it was called Dino’s Italian Garden and Sergio said that he had been going there for dinner almost every Sunday while working at Amato’s. When Dino, the owner, began speaking about retiring and moving back to Italy, Sergio knew he had found the right place to stake his claim.
“I took one of the chefs from Amato’s and we came here. He’s still my partner and runs the kitchen here to this day,” he said. “We took over the business in the early 1980s…it took six or seven months to get ready to open.
Sergio noted that he brought a great deal of Amato’s popular menu over to his new restaurant, and as a result, many of his former employer’s patrons followed him to Massapequa. To this day, Sergio’s offers many delicious, quality dishes that you don’t typically see anywhere else on Long Island.
“Everything that I made at Amato’s, I make over here, but I make it better…this is really the best Italian food you can get on Long Island, without a doubt,” he said. “Our pasta, soups, veal, chicken and fish are all fresh, and we carry a lot of dishes that no other local restaurant does, such as tripe—ours is the best—or frog’s legs, which you don’t see on any menu around here. Broiled with a little garlic and white wine? They’re wonderful.”
Sergio’s is popular, not only for its varied and delicious menu, but also for its entertainment value. For years, Sergio has been inviting performers and musicians to put on shows for his clientele and in any given week customers may encounter Long Island psychic medium Robert Hansen performing readings, a murder mystery dinner theater, stand-up comedy and even singers channeling the all-time greats such as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.
Throughout his history in the business, Sergio said that realizing his dream of owning and operating his own restaurant has been a wonderful experience. He still greets his customers with a warm smile and genuine charm, and despite the ups and downs many local restaurants have faced in recent years due to a hard economy and market oversaturation, Sergio’s Italian Restaurant stands out amongst a crowded landscape because it’s owned by a man that truly loves what he does.
“We’ve had a lot of very good years here serving good Italian food,” he said. “We really appreciate and love our customers who have supported us over the years and we hope to have many more great years in Massapequa to come.”