Giuseppe's Celebrates 20 years at its Wheeler Road location.
By Christopher Selmek
In 1970, Giuseppe Gentile got his start in the restaurant business. He was an 11-year-old son of Italian immigrants living in Brooklyn, NY. According to Gentile, he and most other kids in Brooklyn were working at the time; their parents encouraged them to get jobs so they were not running the streets causing trouble.
Giuseppe's owners, Gentile "Joe", Donna and Nicky.
Giuseppe and his wife moved to Augusta in April of 1985 for the opportunity to purchase Dino’s Pizza at the Regency Mall. Giuseppe said he gained a lot of experience working for the original franchise owner, Nino Bonsante, who helped him and several others go into business for themselves.
“In the early 90s the Regency Mall was starting to go downhill, and our lease was coming up; we had to make a decision,” he said. “We liked Augusta; our children were in school, and through the encouragement of our friends we built this restaurant.”
Giuseppe, who most customers know as Joe, his wife Donna and his oldest son Nicky, the general manager, celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 3690 Wheeler Road, stand-alone Giuseppe’s Italian Restaurant location on September 28.
At the time the restaurant opened there was nothing nearby except Doctor’s Hospital, a funeral home and a few doctors’ offices. Now, with the Augusta Exchange drawing competitors like Romano’s Macaroni Grill, O’Charley’s and Logan’s Roadhouse, it is impressive that Giuseppes’s continues to draw lunchtime and dinnertime crowds; but Joe says he hasn’t done anything that special.
“We just keep doing what we’ve always done, which is to give the best product we can give,” he said. “We have a pretty restaurant with a nice atmosphere, and we really care about our customers, as do all of our employees; people feel special when they come in here.”
Although their lunchtime all-you-can-eat pizza buffet is one of their top sellers for professionals working in the area (11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday for only $5.75), Joe insisted they are not just a pizza restaurant. Giuseppe’s has always been a full-service Italian restaurant serving more than 70 menu items, which are prepared using family recipes and fresh, quality ingredients.
“Our buffet is convenient for a lot of professionals in the area, so they can come in and grab a quick lunch during the day,” said Joe. “But pizzas are only one-third of our offerings; we have extensive Italian entrees and excellent subs with bread that comes from New York. When you order off the menu it comes out piping hot and everything is made to order.”
All the pizza at Giuseppe’s is New York style, with crusts made from scratch daily. They also make their own pizza sauce using an old family recipe. Pizzas are cooked on a gas-fired, stone-bottomed oven. Joe prides himself on using top quality ingredients. One such ingredient, the flower and Grande Cheese, he called “the Cadillac brand of Mozzarella”.
“We use imported Romano cheese from Italy to make our own authentic Alfredo sauce,” he said. “About the only thing missing is Alfredo, the guy who originally invented it; but every ingredient we use is the best possible.”
Whereas Joe got his start in the restaurant business at age 11, he says that his son, Nick, got his start even earlier at age 9, when he wanted to come in to work with his dad. Most of the recipes he uses have been passed down from his mom and dad, but he has also had the opportunity to create a few of his own. One of his specialties is Chicken Nicky, made from tender chicken sautéed and topped with fresh basil, sun-dried tomato Alfredo sauce and served with penne pasta and tomato sauce.
“It’s something that’s inborn, and it’s been a part of my life since I was a child,” said Nick. “I always knew I wanted to be a part of this business.”
“When we started out I was a cook, but we’ve grown and I can’t really do that anymore because I have to do everything else,” said Joe. “We’re here every day and very rarely is a member of our family not in the restaurant taking care of things. I think people appreciate that they see the family here and they appreciate the customer service. We know there are many, many places to eat in Augusta, and when people choose to eat with us that is important to us.”
Giuseppe’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. They have never been open on Sundays because of their strong belief in making time to spend with family; each Sunday Joe, Donna, Nick, their two daughters and Donna’s parents, who moved to Augusta after retiring in 2000, all get together for a big family meal.
“Now that our children are grown and are married we still get together every Sunday at Grandma’s house, at our house, or at one of our children’s houses for a nice meal together,” said Joe. “In the beginning we were open for six days a week, but we decided as a family to close on Mondays also to spend more quality time with our family.”
“We’ve had the good fortune of seeing the full circle of life because we’ve been here for so long,” he continued. “Kids come in here for prom, and then a few years later they come in for their wedding rehearsal dinner; then they’re having babies, and before too long the kids are coming in for their prom and they’re still coming here. That’s special to our culture to be part of that. We want to thank Augusta, and we appreciate that they’ve allowed us into their families and the events in their lives, and we appreciate their patronage.”