‘I became a phys ed teacher in Massapequa, but wanted to do something more. My business partner and I lived together in East Islip. We’d sit up at night and talk about things that interested us.’
“Even when I was a kid, I wanted to make sure people around me were happy. If someone was at my house, I would always make sure they had enough food on their plate. That’s still me today. I like to take care of people, and I think that part of my personality connected me to the hospitality business.
“I’m from Huntington, but finished school in Islip, between 10th and 12th grades after my parents split. I was a big sports guy and played football, wrestling and lacrosse. I’m also a big foodie, and when you’re a wrestler, being a foodie is tough during the winters. I would lose 20-plus pounds just to reach a certain weight to wrestle and had to cut down how much I could put into my body. I would even eat flavored ice cubes to help control myself. I will say, after I would weigh in, my pop would always cheer me up with an egg sandwich or something.
“I went to college for phys ed. I wrestled as a freshman, but then didn’t want to anymore, and I thought about football, but when I changed schools my new school canceled their program, so I stopped sports and called it quits in my early 20s.
Sports didn’t teach me anything about owning a restaurant but did put me in a place where I didn’t want to fail at anything.
“I became a phys ed teacher in Massapequa, but wanted to do something more. My business partner and I lived together in East Islip. We’d sit up at night and talk about things that interested us. Food was always a big one.
“One day while on a lunch break, I was driving around and found a space in Massapequa Park. I fell in love and pictured it as a little burrito joint. I told my buddy, and we got the money together. He stopped what he was doing, I stopped what I was doing, and never looked back.
“One of the fun things about opening a restaurant is tasting all the food. It really unleashed fun eating for me, which is different after being so selective for sports. You’d bulk up for football, then slim down for wrestling, but now I’m just free.
“Sports didn’t teach me anything about owning a restaurant but did put me in a place where I didn’t want to fail at anything. A restaurant was a new venture, and now I have two. I do think my athletic background gave me a fighting-for-another-inch mentality that helped propel my success so far. I think that competitive nature helped get us to this point.”
Interviewed by Ian J. Stark