Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.
That’s the feeling in Villa Milano, a decades-old Italian restaurant in Manhasset owned by the Bekteshi family that serves family recipes and focuses on customer service.
Co-owner Don Bekteshi said running a restaurant with three generations of a family isn’t a piece of cake, but his family has made it work since opening in 1985 with his brothers Eli and John. Before that, the family owned seven restaurants in Italy, and the brothers worked in family-owned restaurants across Long Island before opening Villa Milano.
“You’re going to have bickering in the family, you’re going to have a little tension, but at the end of the night, this is part of business,” Bekteshi said. “You’re going to have a lot of stress and a lot of pressure, but at the end of the day, you give each other big hugs. We’re a family.”
Bekteshi attended the Culinary Institute of America and had some experience before opening the restaurant. The recipes are from the family matriarch, known affectionately around the restaurant as Mama.
“When you work in a restaurant, we double and triple and quadruple our recipes because when my mom cooked, it was for the family,” Bekteshi said. “It’s mom’s good ol’ recipes that we abide by in the kitchen.”
Villa Milano has a limited menu so all the ingredients can be stored and used fresh, Bekteshi said, and the daily evening specials are always popular.
The menu is packed with pasta dishes, an Italian staple, as well as a number of veal, chicken, seafood and vegetable-based dishes. Villa Milano also offers pizzas and sandwiches to help with lunchtime cravings.
Beyond the menu, Bekteshi said his staff, made up of both family members and family friends, is the reason droves of loyal customers come back time and again.
“When it’s family owned and operated, it’s a different feeling,” Bekteshi said. “The friendliness, the atmosphere is nice and warm. You get greeted like the old fashioned way. In the restaurant business, hosts are like robots now. My family, we get to know the customer. We remember names; we remember previous orders. Customers love that.”
The restaurant, nestled along the main street in Manhasset at 168 Plandome Road, is able to attract new customers shopping and visiting other establishments nearby, Bekteshi said.
“In this area, we’re blessed to have nice neighbors contributing and bringing in customers like my friend that makes the best pastries, Buttercooky,” Bekteshi said. “He’s been a plus factor as far as attracting customers. We complement one another on this side of the town. Your neighbors are your family.”