The hometown nature of Garden City Park’s newest hotspot, Spanky’s Food Factory, is felt from within, starting with co-owners Chris Patalano and Gerry DeMarco. Patalano, an 18-year Mineola resident, enlists a true family affair with the help of his two oldest daughters, along with his wife to help run the business. His full-time staff consists of five Mineola High School juniors and seniors.
“I thought I’d be concerned if I’m not there a lot, but being a few blocks away, it’s equivalent to having a home office,” Patalano said. “I made it home the other day in 28 seconds.”
With fresh food on the menu, the savory treats are a moving target, which lets customers essentially make their own dish, Patalano said.
“We’ve always wanted to do a restaurant together,” DeMarco, an information technology specialist, said. “We want to create a business that helps support these children with special needs and give them opportunities they may not usually get. The restaurant business is fun and it’s a lot different than other careers.”
The signature monkey, Spanky, spawned from one of the main characters from The Little Rascals, a popular TV show in the 1920s. Patalano’s daughter, Annemarie, pointed out the character, pushing for the restaurant’s name.
“We thought it was catchy, and combined it with an industrial theme with food factory,” Patalano said.
Spanky’s is close in proximity to Mineola High School, which bodes well for local foot traffic. Patalano and DeMarco plan to run fundraisers for local charities, including breast cancer and autism. The two are also seeking philanthropic avenues for special needs individuals in procuring jobs at Spanky’s.
“I have three children, one high-functioning autistic son,” DeMarco said. “One of the things we agreed on is we should try to create more opportunities for [special needs] kids to have a job and get accomplished. We want to support charities and help groups and the benefit of having a business lets you do it. And we’re going to.”
DeMarco, of Garden City, grew up with Patalano in Astoria, Queens and forever brainstormed the idea for a restaurant.
“It’s community,” DeMarco said. “It’s being where you live. Create business. Create opportunity. You want to do it in your own backyard.”
Patalano, former owner of the Tin Alley Grill in Garden City, currently owns Dillingers Pub and Grill in Astoria, and brought over the recipe for his signature hot wings to Spanky’s, which were voted best hot wings in New York City by USA Today. Spanky’s recently sold 2,000 wings in December over the weekend of the tilt between the New York Jets and New York Giants.
“[Spanky’s] is taking the best of his restaurants and what we’ve eaten over the years,” DeMarco said. “We cook for our customers and over the years we’ve come up with things they enjoy. We’re not forcing our will. We see what customers like and we make it.”
Hot ticket items at Spanky’s include the Buffalo Mac N’ Cheese, a three-cheese dish with chicken tenders. The Philly cheesesteak is a must try, Patalano said,
“All the same recipes are at Spanky’s,” Patalano said. “Dillingers is a bar and we do a lot of steaks there. But the jalapeño poppers, the mac and cheese, burgers, that’s at Spanky’s. We’re doing hot sandwiches, wraps, fish n’ chips.”
A walk-up window will be installed soon, including a text-a-ahead or call-in order option for quick, on-the-go food.
“We’re not a franchise,” Patalano said. “When I see a family come in, seeing them order a lot of food, I’ll bring over milkshakes on the house. We want to be the essence of small business. Serving good, local food. Everyone that comes in is important.”