A graphic design degree from the New York Institute of Technology usually is the precursor to a career in — the restaurant business?
That just so happens to be the life path of Carlo Stanisci. A native Brooklynite, Stansici decided that his future would be in graphic design and applied to New York Institute of. He took classes at both of the school’s campuses — in Old Westbury and Manhattan. As graduation neared, however, his family started a business, importing and exporting wine.
“I went into the wine industry doing sales for four years,” Stanisci said. “I hated the sales business.”
Stanisci then pivoted further and decided to dive fully in to the culinary worl, with no experience. “I had no background,” Stanisci said. “I cooked at home growing up, watched my grandmother make fresh pasta, pick her tomatoes, but that is really it.”
Stanisci attended John Dewey High School in Gravesend, Brooklyn. There, he met Lina DeFalco, his future life and business partner and opened the Little Kitchen on Railroad Avenue in Wantagh.
“We weren’t high school sweethearts,” DeFalco said. “We went to high school together, were familiar with each other, then we met again years later.”
DeFalco went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from the College of Staten Island and eventually moved to Wantagh. She has now lived in Wantagh for 22 years, using her familiarity with the area to become a real estate agent for HomeSmart Premier Living Realty, based out of East Meadow.
The two displaced Brooklyn natives rekindled their connection and began to date. At this point, Stanisci had accumulated experience in the culinary world. Now, Stanisci has 12 years in the restaurant business and has worked for numerous highly rated eateries, both in the kitchen and as a general manager.
“I got my first real start at Salumeria Rosi in Manhattan, worked at Morimoto and Upland, and even worked on Martha’s Vineyard for a bit,” Stanisci said.
Having worked at restaurants like the traditional Japanese Morimoto, , ghe equally traditionally Italian Salumeria Rosi and Upland, an American-style restaurant, Stanisci’s interest in different foods and cultures grew. Tinkering with new recipes intrigued him, and his experimentswould soon leak into Stanisci and DeFalco’s home kitchen. DeFalco matched her partner’s passion with her love for baking and antiquing.
“That’s where the idea for Little Kitchen was born,” DeFalco said. “We always say it, but it is really just an extension of our kitchen at home, and that is how we treat our customers. It is as if we were inviting you into our home.”
Finally, the Wantagh Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the the new business on Sept. 5, which holds a special meaning in the heart of Stanisci. “In Italy, where both of our families are from, it’s a tradition to cut a ribbon when you get married, so it has some extra meaning to us,” Stanisci said. Assistant Town Clerk Kate Murray and State Legislator Steve Rhoads attended the ribbon cutting.
“It’s exciting anytime a business [run by locals] opens up in the community,” Rhoads said. “The more local businesses do better, the better it is for residents in the community.”
The ambiance of the Little Kitchen is influenced by DeFalco’s skill in antiquing. A rustic picnic table is centered in the dining area, flanked by two high-top wooden tables. A comfortable leather chair is tucked into the corner of the dining area that is peppered with seasonal plants. An antique cabinet filled with decorative china and mugs sits against the side wall, echoing the Italian heritage of the restaurant’s owners.
Of course, the new restaurant’s appearance is complemented by the food prepared by Stanisci. The Little Kitchen focuses on breakfast and lunch delicacie that include frittatas, egg white muffins, sandwiches and meatballs
“We are located right next to the train station, so we want to give people something they can eat quickly here or take with them,” Stanisci said. “We want to try and serve commuters on their way to work and getting off the train on their way home.”
Little Kitchen has only been open since the waning days of August and has an 8 a.m.-4 p.m. schedule.
DeFalco also shows off her baking skills by preparing sweet treats like delicious apple cinnamon bread. DeFalco has been handing out her treats to the community as a sweet introduction to the local business scene.
While interviewing the entrepreneurial couple, one of the barbers from the storefront next door walked in to order a few sandwiches. That is one of the most grassroots marketing strategies, the couple said.
“We serve them our food, they like it, and now whenever anyone comes in to get a haircut, they tell them to come next door to grab some food,” DeFalco said. “It’s already happened and we’ve only been open for six days.”
Word-of-mouth is very much the vehicle for the Little Kitchen to grow early on. But the owners measure their success in the experience that their neighbors in the community will have on walking through their doors.
“We want this to be a place for the community where they could come in and have a positive experience with other people from the community,” DeFalco said. “Yes, it’s small, it’s homey, but it’s us.”