Sag Harbor Pizzeria Serves Up Last Slices

Conca D’Oro’s 42-year run comes to an end Tuesday
Seve Martinez, Frank Venesina, Franco Ligregni, Jon Damato, Lina Venesina, and Chris Cadger are preparing for Conca D’Oro’s last day of business on Tuesday. Jackie Pape

Many great stories are told over great meals, so if Conca D’Oro’s walls could talk they would likely have a lot to share after 42 years on Sag Harbor’s Main Street. 

With less than a week left before the old-fashioned pizzeria and Italian restaurant is taken over by Michael Cinque and Laurent Tourondel, who bought Conca D’Oro over the summer and also own LT Burger on Main Street, the Venesina family shared a few stories of their own. 

Shortly before the lunchtime rush, after Frank Venesina, who owns Conca D’Oro with his parents, Lina and Tony Venesina, made sure all the dough, cheese, sauce, and other Italian fare was prepared for the day, he and his mom sat at a corner red-and-white-checkered table and began. 

On Dec. 13, 1975, having lived in America for only a few years, Lina and Tony Venesina opened Conca D’Oro, following in the footsteps of Mrs. Venesina’s brothers, John and the late Peter Gambino, who left their native Sicily and successfully opened Baby Moon in Westhampton in 1972, and the late Celestino Gambino, who opened La Parmigiana in Southampton shortly thereafter. 

“I always liked to cook, to be in the kitchen, to see people,” Mrs. Venesina said in soft, broken English — a language that Frank Venesina said his mother barely knew when his parents first moved. “Cooking was something we liked to do, and that’s why everything is fresh, cooked day by day, from the very beginning to today.” 

It was not long before most of Mrs. Venesina’s side of the family had also left Sicily and opened various other Italian restaurants including Luigi’s Italian Specialties in East Hampton and Primavera Italian Specialties in Montauk. 

While learning to run a restaurant, Mr. and Mrs. Venesina were also raising their two young sons, Frank and his older brother, John, who were 1 and 3 when the restaurant first opened. 

Although both Frank and John spent most of their youth in the restaurant, learning the ins and outs of the family business, John later went on to open his own restaurant, Edgewater in Hampton Bays. Frank, on the other hand, despite a brief leave for school, has been involved for as long as he can remember. 

“I was probably 4 years old running around this place,” he said. “I’ve worked here since I was 15. I’m 43 now.” 

Many of the restaurant’s staff has also worked at the mainstay for a long time. Seve Martinez, the friendly face behind the pizza counter, has been serving slices for nearly 15 years, and Franco Ligregni, the chef, has been in the Conca D’Oro kitchen for about 25. 

Throughout the many decades that Frank Venesina has been in the restaurant, he said one of his fondest memories was 15 years ago when the Sag Harbor Elementary School’s fourth graders surprised him by singing a song about him during the school’s morning program. 

Because Conca D’Oro is in the heart of Sag Harbor Village, it is little surprise that the pizzeria has been a Sag Harbor staple for all these years. 

Frank said that it is not unusual for kids’ backpacks to line the floors as students grab an after-school snack. Sometimes, he said, he even sees kids doing homework there. While Conca D’Oro has been the go-to for many to grab a bite or meet up with friends, some adolescents  found their first jobs there.

“So many kids have worked here over the years,” Frank said nostalgically. “I have seen a lot of kids grow up in this town.”

The change in routine is going to take some getting used to.

“It’s my life. Almost every day it’s the same routine and we will need to have a different routine now,” Frank said. “It will be a big change; this is all we know.” 

While Frank said he has no idea what to expect on Tuesday, Conca D’Oro’s last day, he is already beginning to prepare dough and ingredients for $1 cheese slices and $10 cheese pies that will be the special all day. 

“There are a lot of things I’m going to miss,” Frank said. “I’m going to miss all these connections and miss seeing the kids, but it’s just time for us.” 

Although there are mixed feelings in the community about the Venesinas selling, the new owners have said they plan to keep the place an affordable, family-friendly spot, and have offered Frank Venesina the option to stay on. And he likely will, he said.