Oneonta Landmark Closes Aug. 25
Editor’s Note: Gianluca Avanzato, who recently published his first book, “City of the Hills,” asked to write this valedictory of his family’s role at Stella Luna.
By GIANLUCA AVANZATO • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – For nearly 47 years, brothers Vincenzo and Antonio Avanzato, along with their families, have offered their passion for community, hospitality, and quality food to Oneonta.
After Aug. 25, 2019, the Avanzatos’ most recent restaurant, Stella Luna Ristorante, will close the doors that have remained open to guests from near and far for almost two decades, and Vincenzo and Antonio will step back from their long-held roles as restaurateurs in Oneonta.
The Avanzato family – parents, Diego and Giuseppa, and children, Antoinette, Salvatore, Vincenzo (Vinne), Antonio (Tony) – immigrated from Canicattì, Italy, to Oneonta on Feb. 13, 1966. Shortly thereafter, on Sept. 29, 1972, the Avanzato family opened the Italian Kitchen on Church Street in Oneonta. For nearly 36 years, the Avanzatos ran Italian Kitchen; the restaurant was sold on Aug. 21, 2008.
On June 1, 2000, Vinne and Tony opened up Stella Luna Ristorante. Originally Oneonta’s Delaware & Hudson (D&H) Railroad station, Stella Luna spans the length of a beautiful red brick building on Market Street, initially boasting a highly trained staff of 45.
The restaurant is complete with an extensive professional kitchen, banquet room, smoking room, bar, and dining room.
As per Vinne and Tony’s vision, the restaurant was designed to appear as though one is strolling through a picturesque Italian city: large “windows” hand-painted to resemble the Tuscan countryside; tile-clad awnings to make it appear that one is in a lavish courtyard; and the hand-painted ceiling of the “sky room,” which sometimes darkened and flashed with Tony’s well-known thunderstorm show.
Since the beginning, the whole Avanzato family has been involved in the functioning of the restaurants. “A passion for food and hospitality have always been a part of our families,” remarked Vinne. “The opportunity to share this with our community was, and has always been, the driving force behind our restaurants.”
Giuseppa (Nonna) was famous for her meatballs and lasagna. Diego (Nonno), who was a tailor by trade, turned on the pizza oven every day at 1 p.m. for over 25 years.
Tony and Vinne cooked a variety of dishes, including pizza, a trade which Tony’s son, Gianluca, took on, too. Ruthie, Vinne’s wife, made the desserts for Stella Luna, and Rosemarie, Tony’s wife, periodically served as a hostess.
Of course, for all the Avanzato children – Diego, Jeanette, Giuliva, Olivia, Gianluca, and Massimo – working at the restaurants was a rite of passage: washing dishes, waiting tables, and making guests feel at home.
The Avanzato brothers have proudly shared their culture and creations, whether culinary or artistic, with the local community. Not only was the Italian Kitchen the first pizzeria to introduce calzones, back when it was served with honey on top, but they also perfected dessert pizzas and popularized chicken wings, beginning with Super Bowl 17.
Vinne and Tony developed their own unique creations through the years. Tony created the fugazza, an original stuffed pizza; Vinne’s signature dish is chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red peppers served over linguine. On top of these culinary delicacies, the Italian Kitchen was also one of the first restaurants to offer delivery in Oneonta.
“One of the great challenges and joys of this business has been trying to keep abreast with trends in food culture,” explains Tony, “bringing new ideas to Oneonta from my own travels and experiences.”
In all their time in Oneonta, Vinne and Tony have put love into all they do and have contributed immensely to the local community.
For several years, the brothers brought food to the Lord’s Table to help provide food to the less fortunate. They also hosted the Hartwick Wine Auction to help fundraise for the athletic department and raised more than $400,000 over the span of 14 years.
Perhaps dearest to their hearts is the Children Christmas Shopping fund, which was started in 1999.
On top of their personal contributions, Tony and Vinne collected monetary donations from the local community and distributed it among Oneonta’s elementary schools to take local children in need shopping for basic necessity items, including, of course, a couple of toys. This was a large, annual undertaking, in which family, friends, community members, and school personnel took part, averaging between 15 and 33 children annually.
“Forty-seven years is a long time to do what you love,” shared Tony. “All good things come to an end.” After spending most of their lives in Oneonta, raising families, and offering their skills and passions to the local community for 47 years, Vinne and Tony have decided to step back from the restaurant business.
“It’s now time to move into the next phase of life – closer to my children and grandchildren,” concludes Vinne. “It’s a new chapter that Ruth and I have been excited about for a long time.”
Thanks to Oneonta and its community, the Avanzatos have made friendships with thousands of students from both Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta, as well as alumni, visitors, community members, and, of course, the regular customers, whose company will be dearly missed. “As a business owner, your customers become an extended family,” said Vinne. “It’s been so fulfilling to provide the place where so many occasions and celebrations took place and happy memories were made.”
Moreover, the Avanzatos are fortunate to have had so many wonderful employees over the years, including students, community members, and sons and daughters of local friends. The Avanzatos take this opportunity to thank all their current and previous employees for their hard work, dedication, and loyalty—for positively impacting both the businesses and the families.
We, the Avanzato family, step back from our local business with immense gratitude, having found great pleasure in serving so many people over the years, welcoming guests as family. Stella Luna will always remain, for us, a symbol of community, hospitality, resilience, and love.
We encourage you to come by Stella Luna Ristorante, enjoy a fine meal, and say goodbye before the restaurant closes on August 25. We especially encourage gift card holders to come in as soon as possible.
We look forward to seeing you. Ci vediamo.