For four decades, Giovanni’s has been a staple in the Pelham Bay Park community. Sadly, it will be shuttering its doors at the end of the month.
Located at 3209 Westchester Ave., the restaurant is closing April 26 after 40 years.
“Over the past 40 years every family member has worked there,” said Debbie Scargoni, who owns the eatery with her husband Luigi.
In 1979 Luigi and his brother Anthony bought Giovanni’s from the previous owner when it was formerly located at 3227 Westchester Ave.
The duo emigrated to American from Italy at ages 15 and 11. They worked various jobs in the food industry, including at a luncheonette owned by Debbie’s father, which is where he met his future wife.
In 1990 the restaurant moved to its current location.
Throughout the years, they became a big part of the community, Scargoni explained. Their family grew up there and it was like a second home for many people. She recalled how parents brought their kids there and years later, those kids came with their own.
“They all love our sauce,” she said. “Everybody goes crazy for our chicken parm and baked rigatoni.”
In fact, their family celebrated the major holidays at the eatery and about a decade ago, began inviting people from the neighborhood to their annual New Year’s Day bash.
They also sponsored journals for schools and did whatever they could to help others.
“My husband, he’s not one with words, but he likes to give to the community,” she stressed.
Things changed in 2008 when not only did the recession hit, but Anthony got sick and passed away a year later.
It was difficult for the business and the family, Scargoni said. But, they persevered and she began to work in the store more often, along with their twin sons, Luigi and Silverio, 31.
“It was tough the loss of his brother,” Scargoni said.
But, Luigi, 66, began talking about retirement last summer. Forty years of non-stop work was enough. They own the building and wanted to sell.
In October, their plans hit a bump in the road when he suffered a stroke. He is slowly recovering, but COVID-19 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“My goal was to wait until we were sold,” Scargoni explained.
Being open now during the crisis doing takeout and delivery, they are barely breaking even. While customers are grateful for their food, Scargoni knows it’s time for a new chapter.
Their goal is to sell the store once things return to normalcy.
They plan to enjoy life, help her husband get better, spend time with their kids and visit Italy, where they have a summer home.
“It seems like every day is more of an emotional thing, especially when customers come in and start talking about it [closing],” she said.