POUGHKEEPSIE – Fifty years ago this fall, the Milanese Restaurant opened its doors at 115 Main Street. On Saturday, September 11, and Sunday, September 12, the Milanese family is holding an outdoor Italian Fest at the Poughkeepsie mainstay.
Fifty years ago Santino and Rita Milanese took over a vacant building at 115 Main Street and began their journey of the American Dream. Santino had experience as a waiter and bartender that he obtained working for the Coppola family’s restaurant in Poughkeepsie. Their son Aldo said his father convinced his mother Rita, to join him in opening their own place. “My father said to mom, just cook like you already do and I’ll take care of the front of the house. We can do this.” So began the family business.
This weekend, the Milanese family has covered a large portion of their parking lot with tents covering tables and chairs for the expected large crowds of supporters. Aldo Milanese works in the family business and also serves as a Commissioner in the Fairview Fire District in Poughkeepsie. During a break in the preparations on Friday, he touted the family concept of the business.
“We’ve had employees that have worked here for decades. They are part of our family and they have helped us keep things going.” One notable former employee is Dutchess County Undersheriff (DCSO) Kirk Imperati. The second-in-command at the DCSO is presiding over a 9/11 memorial service at the restaurant at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday. “The Milanese family has been a cornerstone of the Mt. Carmel community for 50 years. Their food, family, and friendship have resonated throughout the community,” he said. Praising the founders, he added “Santino and Rita have always been there for anyone in need. They have provided jobs for numerous people over the years including me. Their friendship and devotion to family and community are cherished by all of us.”
Aldo is surrounded by his brothers Alessandro and Roberto at the restaurant. They all work to keep customers happy and their success is evident. Roberto is also known for his musical abilities and will be singing at the festival on Sunday.
When the Italian Center closed, the city lost the enormous festival that was held at the center. “We worked with our friends from the center to plan this event. We’re going to have a wide selection of food including brick oven pizza, meatballs, sausage and peppers, fried dough, and the popular Nonna’s lasagna, among other offerings for the delight of everyone,” said Aldo.
Santino is also a magician, known for performing tricks for customers at the restaurant. He is also a member of the Society of American Magicians. The local chapter holds its monthly meeting at the Milanese Restaurant. Aldo said that magicians will be performing during the weekend and there will be appearances by local celebrity Bee Bee the Clown.
Alessandro Milanese has been working on food preparation all week and said “We want people to come down, celebrate, eat delicious food, and celebrate with our family.”