Tucked away in a residential neighborhood on Midland Avenue, Belluscio’s Restaurant has been part of the city’s landscape since 1933.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Tucked away in a residential neighborhood on Midland Avenue, Belluscio’s Restaurant has been part of the city’s landscape since 1933. The historic black-and-white photographs that hang on its walls depict the Rye of another era and still belong to the family that snapped them all those years ago. As a matter of fact, the restaurant has played a role in owner Frank Belluscio’s life ever since he can remember.
“It doesn’t seem that long at all,” he admitted. “Although the business has changed, I love it and it’s rewarding. I’ve gotten to know my customers. Kids I used to know bring in their own kids now. It’s my social life.”
Equal parts old world charm and authentic regional Italian cuisine, Belluscio’s might be Rye’s oldest surviving family business. A longtime, faithful clientele still welcome the neighborhood feel and enjoy the homemade lasagna, chicken Francese, and veal saltimbocca, among a myriad of traditional dishes. Although he doesn’t reside here, for Frank, 352 Midland Avenue is home.
In 1926, Frank’s grandparents, Vito and Emily, moved to this very location from Manhattan back when Midland Avenue was Meadow Lane and a trolley transported pedestrians to and from Port Chester. To make a living, they turned their front porch into a grocery store. As Frank remarked, “Life was simpler and you didn’t need permits back then.”
After Prohibition, Frank’s great-grandfather added an extension to the house, where Vito opened a bar. Guests relished Emily’s home-cooked meals, and before long, the family closed their makeshift grocery and opened an eatery. Midland Tavern-Belluscio’s Restaurant was born.
“It was so nice back then. We lived across the street with my grandparents and my uncles lived upstairs,” he recalled. Frank first got his feet wet in the restaurant business by washing dishes in the kitchen as a 10-year-old. His uncles, Michael and Joseph Belluscio, ran the establishment for many years.
As an adolescent, however, Frank had his sights set on a different career. “I wanted to be an artist. I took many classes, but my father didn’t think it was a good idea, so I became a hairdresser instead,” he explained. When he found himself between jobs, he started tending bar in nightclubs and restaurants throughout New York and Florida before making his way back to his family’s hometown restaurant.
He honed his cooking skills by watching the chefs and cooks that worked in their kitchen through the years. “I picked their brains and reinvented family recipes, ” he explained. To this day, he still does all the prep work.
Becoming the sole owner in 1986, Frank changed the name to Belluscio’s Restaurant and spruced up the place, which seats 87, with comfortable booths, wood paneling, and a fireplace. With a wistful expression, he points to an oil painting of Paris that hangs in the main dining room. His signature in the corner reveals the artist.
A restaurateur at heart, Frank added, “I’m here to stay. We’re celebrating our 80th anniversary next year, but we’re going to go for 100.”
Dinner is served Tuesday through Sunday from 5-11 p.m. For a reservation, call 967-5634.