Joseph DeNicola became hooked on cooking at an early age. From the age of four, on most Sundays, the young DeNicola lent a hand in the kitchen alongside his mother and grandmother. However, it was the excitement and energy of restaurants that initially lured DeNicola into the culinary life. He has held every position — from busboy to general manager, dishwasher to chef– and has worked in some of the finest restaurants on Long Island and Manhattan, honing the skills that have made him the successful chef and restaurateur that he is today.
By age 16, Joe was working at the legendary Maine Maid Inn, a Long Island landmark, in Jericho, N.Y. It was there as a busboy that he learned the ropes, working his way up from waiter to restaurant captain. Eager to learn more about the business, he also worked at Ristorante Venere, an Italian institution, in Westbury that received a “very good” by The New York Times. He alternated between the two establishments throughout his high school and college years. At Ristorante Venere, DeNicola was introduced to back-of-the-house operations. Working closely with the restaurant’s executive chef, he gained extensive knowledge about food preparation, including how to create authentic sauces and dressing, butcher meat and fish, and prepare classic Italian specialties.
Joe received a lacrosse scholarship to Adelphi University, where he studied business administration. After college, Joe received his traditional French service training at Caminari’s, a historic Northern Italian restaurant in Locust Valley, N. Y. Always, intrigued by both sides of the house, it was there that he eventually transitioned from waiter to pastry chef. Thereafter, Joe was onboard for the launch of the California Grille in Glen Head, N.Y. At the time, the 150-seat eatery was the only one on Long Island concentrating exclusively on California cuisine. It was awarded a “very good” by The New York Times. Joe worked in the kitchen and was promoted to head chef.
Joe then moved into Manhattan to further hone his culinary and management skills. He worked as a manager at the world-famous Plaza Hotel’s Oak Room, under the ownership of Donald Trump. He then worked at Quatorze Beis and where he learned French Country cuisine and at Robert DeNiro’s famous Tribeca Grill where he learned new American cuisine.
Joe’s first restaurant ownership was when he reopened and re-established the legendary Phebe’s Restaurant and Bar in the East Village. During this period, Joe also consulted on a new TriBeca steakhouse, Dylan Prime, which both continue to enjoy success today.
Joe returned to his Italian roots with Ruvo, which he opened as owner / head chef along with three of his brothers in November 2001. The Greenlawn restaurant has since become a favorite with diners who applaud his consistent, flavorful and homespun Italian fare. A second Ruvo debuted in Port Jefferson in March 2006. In November 2007, Joe was invited to cook at the incredible James Beard House. The New York Times raved, “some restaurants find success elusive. Not Ruvo. The highly popular spot in Greenlawn has just spawned a second Ruvo in Port Jefferson, which is doing a great job…A standout.” Newsday Food Critic, Peter Gianotti reviewed Ruvo in Port Jefferson and said, “…what defines the place is a friendly approach, unpretentious style and the reliable skills of chef Joseph DeNicola.” His next venture was la Tavola, in Sayville, NY who was awarded Top 10 Restaurant in 2008 by Newsday and received the American Culinary Federation Award of Excellence in 2011. The New York Times Joanne Starkey call DeNicola’s food “rib-sticking and delicious.”
It was during Joe’s 2011 trip to Texas to receive the American Culinary Federation Award of Excellence, he was inspired by the Tex-Mex style of food. Upon return, Joe started working on the Del Fuego concept which he now enjoys three locations with his brothers.
Joe DeNicola works tirelessly with charities like The Long Island Alzheimer’s Society & Hope House Ministries. DeNicola, who enjoys golf, skiing, art, food and wine, has traveled extensively in Europe and throughout Italy. The father of three children, he and his wife live in St. James, N.Y.