Business Q&A: Pantano's Opens in Long Beach

Restaurant owner in Hewlett starts new eatery on East Park Avenue.

Mike Pantano’s eatery on Broadway in Hewlett has been an area favorite for sandwiches, paninis, burgers and more since it first opened about a decade ago. He also opened a more upscale Italian restaurant, Ciao Bella, four months ago, also in Hewlett.

Now, the restaurateur hopes to find similar success at his newest location in Long Beach, at 18 E. Park Ave., which opened its doors on Jan. 9. Patch sat down with Pantano to talk about his background and where he hopes to see his business go.

Tell me how you got your start in the food industry?

I used to have a large entertainment company, which kept me busy on the weekends. During the week, I’d meet with clients, but I really didn’t have much to do. So in 1997 I ended up finding a store for sale in Oceanside on Long Beach Road. (That store closed two years ago.)

How’d you end up in Hewlett?

I said to myself that I wanted to open in my hometown of Lawrence because there really wasn’t any place to eat. I had a store next to Lawrence Diner on Burnside Diner for 10 years. I sold it to my brother, and there was a fire next door, and we just never reopened there.

I found this location in Hewlett, we opened up and little by little it started to get busier and busier. That was it. Since then, we opened more stores — in Merrick, which moved to Seaford, and now we’re in Long Beach. In the interim, I opened a few bagel stores called Bagels, Bagels, Bagels, in Valley Stream and Franklin Square. I sold both of them. When I had them all, there were too many things going on.

What was appealing about opening in Long Beach?

I saw an opportunity here. It was close enough to my Hewlett location that I felt comfortable enough taking it on, and it’s just a market that I think my product can excel at. It’s a younger crowd here. The Pantano name will be beneficial to me here. They know my product, so it’ll be easier to grow versus an unknown area like New Jersey or Connecticut.

How is business different in each of the markets?

In certain areas, certain parts of the menu will sell better than in other areas. In Hewlett, more salads and wraps. Here in Long Beach, we have more burgers and paninis. The seaford store sells a lot of pizza and pasta. It’s all relevant to wherever we are. In the end, we sell pretty much an average amount of everything.

Keep in mind we also do a tremendous amount of delivery. Almost 50 percent of our business is delivery. We were the first, in 2004, to bring branded cars to Long Island—as far as I can remember.

Do you have a business philosophy?

I don’t want to sound cocky and say I have no competition, but that’s how I run my business. I can’t worry about everyone else and what they do. All I can only worry about is when my phone rings, or people walk into the store. We take care of the customer. Everything else is out of my control.

What’s your signature sandwich?

Our most popular is the Guido—chicken cutlet, American, crispy bacon and creamy Russian dressing. It’s hands down the number one seller.

What are the greatest challenges facing restaurateurs nowadays?

One hundred percent employees—being able to put together a good staff and keeping them together. I can’t do it on my own. The most challenging part is giving them the responsibilities and making sure they take care of them. I think I work the hardest out of all my employees and I think every boss does. But I happen to have excellent workers.

What are you looking forward to in the future?

The future is going to go in a different direction by me hopefully franchising and seeing some more stores opening up, whether it’s here in New York or in Florida or somewhere else. It’s just a matter of me finalizing my product and making it easier for the next person to take on the responsibility of running a Pantano’s and maximizing his employees. My goal is to be the top guy in control of 12, 15 stores in Nassau County as well as operate my own couple of stores.

LBLover March 07, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Rumor has it you charge 2 dollars for delivery is that true?
Lloyd March 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM
My gal and I ate here last week. The food and service were very good, but its more of a take out or quick lunch place, than an upscale gourmet dinner restaurant. its still a good deal.
Misty March 07, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Ordered in from there 2 times. Found it to be a bit pricey but the food was good. I have no idea if they charged us for delivery. I will definitely order from them again.
Marcia I March 07, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Good luck, Mike! Nice to see your name here in Long Beach. Now that I know that Ciao Bella is your restaurant I wll have to check it out. I like to see former Lawrence students build wonderful careers. You're a terrific entrepreneur. I smile when I "remember you when" and I wish you much continued success!
mildred petrassi March 08, 2012 at 11:29 PM
good luck Mike.......the previous place was so dirty I wouldn't go in...some wing joint....i'm trying your place tomorrow...near my salon.
Leonard Bauman March 12, 2012 at 01:50 PM
My wife and I will try Pantano's. Pantano's Bell Telephone Number is 516-442-4665, we will call them to find out about their menu, prices, store hours, etc. We have to support Long Beach merchants or else they will go out of business leaving blighted store fronts like you see in parts of NYC. It is better for someone to go in and buy something than nothing. That something you bought multiplied by other small somethings bought by others can make the difference of a small business thriving or shutting down for good. God bless Long Beach's commercial establishments, God bless Long Beach in the United States of America. Our home sweet home.


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