What was once Friendly’s Ice Cream is the new Giovanni’s Pizzeria, home to Italian staples and plenty of al fresco dining in East Patchogue.
Giovanni’s opened Friday on East Main Street next to Swan River Preserve.
Chef and co-owner Giovanni (John) Ficarra also owns Medford Pastaria on Horse Block Road. He teamed up with longtime friend John Slaymaker on the Patchogue project.
“John lives nearby and must have passed this empty building hundreds of times,” said Slaymaker. “It was vacant and blighted and he thought it would be a good spot for a pizzeria. I came by and I looked at it, and I agreed.”
Playmaker and the Ficarras purchased the property toward the end of April 2016.
Then the painstaking transformation from Friendly’s began — with the old building now barely recognizable. (You know that cupola was the first thing to go.)
The building’s exterior features a wrap-around patio with overhang seating for those summer showers. Inside, the design is rustic yet modern and casual.
“It’s a beautiful location right next to the park, which his really nice,” Slaymaker said.
The concept and menu is the same as in Medford, with traditional Italian offerings from baked ziti and shrimp parmigiana to chicken cacciatore and frutta di Mare.
And, of course, there’s plenty of pizza, calzoni, zeppole, rice balls and pepperoni or sausage rolls to be had. There’s also a gelato case, which looked like it was raided after that first day open.
“This was a Friendly’s, so you got to have the ice cream,” joked Slaymaker.
Ficarra, who also lives in East Patchogue, opened Medford Pastaria as a small pizza parlor in 1994 in what’s now the Dollar Tree Plaza in Medford.
He moved to the larger location just a few doors down about 10 years later.
In the last 22 years, he’s helped open other Pastaria locations on the island but isn’t affiliated with any restaurant other than the one on Horseblock.
On Saturday in Patchogeu, he was busy in the kitchen while his wife and Giovanni’s co-owner, Lisa, helped clear tables out front.
“So far so good,” she said of the grand opening. “The community’s reception has been really, really great.”
She then asked her husband to name a signature dish for a GreaterPatchogue reporter.
Lisa returned by saying this:
“He says everything is our specialty.”
IF YOU GO
Please note that Giovanni’s does not have any liquor license as of May 12.
The hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays through Thursdays, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The address is 522 East Main Street. Call 631-552-4444. There’s no delivery (yet).