Sag Harbor Mainstay, Conca D’Oro, To Change Hands

Conca D’Oro proprietor Frankie Venesina tosses the dough for a fresh pizza in July, shortly after it was revealed the Sag Harbor mainstay would change hands. Michael Heller photo.
Conca D’Oro proprietor Frankie Venesina tosses the dough for a fresh pizza on Thursday, July 6, 2017. Michael Heller photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

Conca D’Oro, the Sag Harbor restaurant where Little Leaguers by the thousands have celebrated their victories and salved the wounds of their defeats with a slice or two of its famous pizza, is changing hands.

Frankie Venesina, a familiar face behind the front counter, who owns the local institution with his parents, Tony and Lina, confirmed the sale, on Thursday afternoon, to Laurent Tourondel and Michael Cinque, the owners of LT Burger across the street.

“It’s kind of bittersweet, but it’s time for us,” he said. “Mike and Laurent are nice guys and they share the vision of my parents and me and want to keep it an affordable, family-friendly restaurant.”

Mr. Venesina said he expected the deal to be finalized in January, adding that the new owners had asked him to stay on and that he had agreed to do so.

The Venesina family has run the restaurant since 1975, shortly after arriving from Sicily when Mr. Venesina was just a baby. Today, Conca D’Oro churns out 300 to 400 pies on a busy summer day when lines can stretch out the front door. It also provides a menu of traditional Italian fare in a dining room behind a row of booths and small tables.

Conca D’Oro is far from the extended family’s only restaurant holding. Mrs. Venesina’s brother, the late Celestino Gambino, started La Parmigiana in Southampton Village, and it is still run by his family. John Venesina, Frankie’s older brother, operates the Edgewater restaurant in Hampton Bays. Other relatives own Baby Moon in Westhampton, Luigi’s Italian Specialties in East Hampton and Primavera Italian Specialties in Montauk.

Tony Venesina now spends part of his time in Italy, but Mrs. Venesina, who lives in Southampton, remains a fixture in the restaurant, whether seating diners, helping in the kitchen or clearing tables.

“It’s time for her to retire,” Mr. Venesina said. “She’s been working her whole life.”

But she said she has different plans. “I’m not the type to sit and watch TV,” she said. “I’ll just have to come up with something.”

Mr. Venesina, who is now 42, has worked at the family business since he was 13 years old. “I’ve seen a lot kids grow up in Sag Harbor,” he said, “and I’ve also had a lot of kids work for me.”

It’s the kind of place if one of those kids is short a dollar or two, a simple nod of the head lets him know his credit is good, even if most of the small tabs are never collected.

In a 2014 article in The Express, Mr. Venesina said the family had signed a long-term lease for the building, but this week he said he did not want to discuss the terms of the deal with the new buyers.

Mr. Cinque did not respond to phone calls, emails or a personal request for an interview.

Rumors about the pending sale had swirled in the village this summer. Another rumor had Il Capuccino, just down the block from Conca D’Oro, also being sold, but when asked, Amber Tagliasacchi, whose family has owned the Italian restaurant for decades, simply laughed and said the rumors were false.

“It’s because of them,” she said, referring Conca D’Oro. “People are hearing ‘That Italian restaurant in Sag Harbor was sold’ and they think it’s us.”