For the Love of Food, Family and Fine Wines

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS The Di Prinzio family stands in front of Di Prinzio’s Kitchen, located at 428 Riverside Drive in Clayton. The restaurant will feature outdoor seating in the summer.

BY: Holly Boname
Opening a new business in Northern New York can come with its challenges, especially as Jack Frost is about to nip at our doorsteps and the busy summer season has drawn to a close. But for one Clayton family, those challenges are being met with family unity, a warm fire and food that they believe will fight off the coldest of winter months.

The Di Prinzio family has taken their love of food, friends, family and fine wines and started a journey together that they hope will fill the hearts and bellies of their soon-to-be customers – a journey that they are taking together in their first family-owned and-operated full restaurant.

Di Prinzio’s Kitchen, located at 428 Riverside Drive in Clayton, will soon open its doors to the public and serve up American-Italian style cuisine that incorporates other flavors from the family’s travels.

Ten years ago, Shawn and Chris Di Prinzio started a small weekend catering business out of their home. Chris, then working for Time Warner Cable, couldn’t deny his love of cooking and entertaining and put his skills to use part-time. The couple then had three kids in high school, were working full time jobs, but soon learned that the community was embracing the flavors Chris was passionately plating and opened a small market out of their family home. Word began to spread.

 “I worked for Time Warner Cable for 32 years,” said Chris. “I went through a couple buyouts with other companies, I loved my job and the people I worked with, but I was ready for a change. So now I am following my passion.”

Chris retired and with the support of his wife, children and their new son-in-law the family decided to begin looking for a location in downtown Clayton that would fit their needs. That’s when business developer Jim Cumming approached the family with a location they couldn’t turn down.

 “We’ve always looked around for locations, numerous places in Clayton to find a place to start a restaurant” said Shawn. “We made offers and nothing really worked out. And then out of the blue Jim Cumming contacted us and said, “Would you be interested in meeting about the restaurant coming downtown?”

She said word of mouth had traveled to Mr. Cumming that the market had really flourished and he felt they were a perfect fit for his space.

 “So then when we met with him, and he met my husband, and the ideas starting flowing, it was then that Mr. Cumming was all in. He has been very supportive, and when we walked into the building we knew,” said Shawn.

With a business plan in place and a location secured, the Di Prinzio’s knew they were going to need some assistance with opening the new restaurant, and who better than their children who hold many different talents that would lend well to the new venture. Their daughter Cheyenne had been living in Nashville, Tenn., where she was working as a marketing manager for a hospitality company and her fiancé, Ken, as the general manager for a very reputable restaurant.

 “We learned so much about the industry and decided we wanted to open our own business, but wanted to be patient about it,” said Cheyenne, “and then this opportunity came along to work with my parents.”

The young soon-to-be-married couple moved home with their daughter, were married over the summer and the Di Prinzio team grew stronger.

 “When we found out we were going to do this, obviously, we knew that just Chris and I weren’t going to be able to do this by ourselves. So it all came together; I wanted my grandbaby to come home, I wanted my daughter to come home and we have someone who can literally help us build this thing and we can do it together as a family. And then my son Connor – Connor is a production assistant on things in California and he was doing videos in Nashville- but he was available as well. So at that point it was like, let’s just get us all together! Also, my daughter Cassie works here, too. She lives here, she’s an amazing piece of our puzzle, so we all just kind of looked at each other like, here’s my marketer, here’s my general manager, here’s my chef, Connor is the assistant chef, Cassie is a waitress. You know it just all worked,” said Shawn.

When you enter the restaurant the family has included elements that are warm and inviting, yet has an industrial feel with a wire-brushed zinc bar, an open side bar where the wood fire brick oven illuminates the dining room with alluring smells and firelight. The family says the environment is going to make one feel at home with a home-cooked taste with high-end spins. The family says its focus is on service and comfort.

 “I wanted to bring a flavor to the restaurant that reflected the travel that we have done. I’ve been interested in cooking for the past 25 years; it’s just always something that I have had a passion for,” said Chris. “I want to bring something a little different. We will have your standard Italian food; I call it American-Italian as my heritage is from Italy, but I was born and raised in America, so I just flip it around. And then I can do other things as far as an Asian flair; I love Asian food, so it’s not just strictly Italian. It’s my love of cooking and food… simple food, great ingredients, and as fresh as possible.”

The family is now all together in Clayton, overseeing construction, the installation of their signature wood fire brick pizza oven, and developing their menu, wine list and craft beer lineup. The restaurant is set to open in November and the family says the approaching winter months don’t have them worried at all.

 “We want people to come in during the winter in their snow pants, we want people to come in off their snowmobile and enjoy the wood fired oven. We want the aesthetics to be comfortable, whether it’s off the boat, off the snowmobile, in the front door off the water,” said Shawn.

The Di Prinzio’s may be new to opening a family business, but the business of being a close-knit family surely isn’t. They say it’s about learning from each other and figuring it out together. And that’s what they all say is their key to success: each other.