Neil Koenig's friends all knew he'd end up back in the restaurant business.
"I grew up in the food industry," Koenig said.
His father was a "jobber," meaning he sold food to restaurants. Koenig said his dad sold "everything--cheese, meats, everything, and did that his whole life." Koenig started helping his father when he was 10 and did so until he went off to college. He got a BS in marketing from the University of Maryland and then ran his father's business.
He bought his first restaurant in 1985: the BackStage Deli in Manhattan. "We had seats, delivery, hot/cold food..Then I sold that, went downtown and bought Crystal Gourmet on Water Street. It was a salad bar and I expanded it a bit."
At this point he was married and starting a family in Dix Hills, and he sold the business and switched gears, becoming an Allstate insurance salesman.
Recently he decided it was time to return to his roots and so he bought another restaurant, this one in East Meadow: Buongusto PieSanos.
He kept the staff, the chefs and the food, because they were all excellent and the restaurant had a loyal following.
"I have regular customers and on Saturdays, we're packed. It's because the food is outstanding. That's why they come back. The prices are reasonable, especially considering the portion sizes. The only downsize is it limits my dessert sales, since people are so full," Koenig said.
He's putting in long hours, trying to make sure everything is perfect. "It's worth it," he said. "It's something I enjoy doing."
His children are very happy that he's doing what he loves. Perry is a senior at Hills West. He said, "I can't even explain how proud I am. I don't have words to explain how happy I am that dad now owns a restaurant. The food is amazing and I can't be any happier for him."
His daughter Amanda is in 10th grade. She's already been helping out at the restaurant when she can. She said, “I absolutely love the restaurant and I’m so glad my dad bought it! He has always loved the restaurant business and I’m glad that he came back into it. Even though I am really picky I still love so many of the different dishes they make. Everyone is so nice and welcoming to our family.”
Koenig's wife, Sue, said, "Neil has always wanted to pursue the restaurant business. He owned two delis in Manhattan when we met. He ventured into a different field, hoping to one day return to his dream. I believe he found it in this restaurant."