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. 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 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 90's our lease at Regency Mall was coming to an end; 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."
On Sept. 28, Giuseppe, who most customers know as Joe, his wife Donna, and his oldest son Nick, who is now the general manager, celebrated their 23rd anniversary as owners of Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant at their stand-alone location at 3690 Wheeler Road.
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 Giuseppe'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 people can come to with a nice atmosphere, and we really care about our customers, all our employees do, and people feel special when they come in here."
Although their lunchtime pizza buffet is one of their top sellers for professionals working in the area, which is all-you-can eat from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday for only $6.48, Joe insisted they are not a pizza restaurant. Giuseppe's has always been a full-service Italian restaurant with over 70 menu items, prepared using family recipes and only the best 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 but piping hot and everything is made to order."
All the pizza is New York style, which starts out with an excellent crust using dough that we make fresh every day. We use peeled and crushed tomatoes to make our own sauce using family recipes, and a gas-fired, stone-bottomed ovens so the pizza cooks right on the stone. Joe also prides himself on his use of top quality ingredients. One such ingredient, the Grande Cheese, Giuseppe called "the Cadillac brand of Mozzarella cheese".
"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 sauteed 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 one of our children's home 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 Monday also to spend 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."