THE BLOG
05/07/2013 08:52 am ET Updated Jul 07, 2013

Astoria Characters: The Inventive Restaurateur

Giuseppe Falco pulls a chair up to the table and pours himself a cup of coffee. Pachanga Patterson, his Mexican restaurant with a New York accent, doesn't open until evening, but his day starts at 10 a.m., and he'll be around until at least 8.

So the coffee, black as ink, is a necessity. His parents, immigrants from Sciacca, Italy, always told him that if he worked hard, he could have anything he wanted.

He's proof that they were right: Pachanga is Giuseppe's second restaurant. He and his partners opened it after their first, Vesta, was a success.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Giuseppe is co-owner of Vesta, Pachanga Patterson and Van Alst.

Giuseppe's parents also told him a lot of other things -- go to school, work hard, save money, open your own business -- and he's done all that and more. And he's only 34.

That he paid attention to them has to do with the fact that his family, which settled in Ridgewood, Queens, was what he calls "very, very poor."

His father, a carpenter, and his mother, a seamstress, didn't make it to America until they were about the age Giuseppe is now, so they had a pretty rough time of it.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Pachanga Patterson, on 31st Avenue, opened in 2011.

Two daughters were more than enough, so when Giuseppe arrived like a surprise package, even though their lives were a bit easier, it just made everything else harder.

"We only had the necessities," says Giuseppe, who wears the beginnings of a black beard and a knit cap that makes him look like a fisherman.

Cooking in the Falco household was as essential as breathing, and by the time Giuseppe was in high school, he knew he was destined for a career in the food industry.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Giuseppe at Pachanga's bar.

"What I enjoy about food is how approachable it is," he says. "Even someone who has never cooked before can become an incredible cook almost overnight. And food is something that everyone has in common and gets excited about."

Giuseppe kept his eye on the kitchen all through college. In fact, he paid his way by working for a kosher catering company.

"We used to do $30,000 bar mitzvahs," he says. "My eyes popped out of my head."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Fruit-infused tequila, a Pachanga specialty.

The money was so good and he loved the job so much that he quit college one class shy of graduation. The idea of opening his own restaurant was always on his mind and in his mouth.

"My one major decision was whether to work in the front of the house or the back of the house," he says.

To find out, he tried a couple of other jobs short term -- he made onion rings and cheeseburgers at Carolines Comedy Club and dished up meals at a retirement home. Next, he did an unpaid stint as an observer at a newly opened restaurant before taking a full-time, wages job there as a server.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
His third project is a catering company.

This was all well and good, but it wasn't what Giuseppe really wanted to do.

"I quit and went to Italy to work at a pastry place a friend owned," he says. "I sold my car and took all my savings."

When he came back, nearly four months later, he went back to restaurants, working first as a server then a manager and eventually a general manager.

In 2008, Vesta opened, and in 2011, Pachanga was added to the menu. This year, the catering business Van Alst debuted.

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Colored lights strung on the ceiling say Pachanga's ready to party.

Giuseppe divides his time between Vesta and Pachanga; he's the guy you always see up front checking on the drinks and the service.

His days are packed, but he isn't going to let Pachanga have the last bite. He and his partners are working on a new endeavor: a bar with really good food.

"That's something that's sorely lacking in the neighborhood," he says.

The trio hope that three establishments will be their lucky number.

"Our intention was to always have three," Giuseppe says. "Each is small; we need three -- one to support each of us."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
His next project will raise the bar on bar food.

But right now, Giuseppe's got a lot of other stuff on his plate. He recently married -- he met his wife when she came into one of the restaurants he was working in -- and just bought a house in Long Island City's historic block of brownstones. He's looking forward to fixing it up.

"I love old homes," he says. "I'd love to restore them when I retire."

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Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Giuseppe says he'll always be involved in the food industry.

When it's pointed out that restorations are hard, physical work even for young people, Giuseppe brushes the comment aside like a crumb from the table. It may be difficult, he agrees, but it's a piece of cake compared to the restaurant business.

Which reminds him, he's due to make a delivery to Vesta. He walks out carrying four dozen eggs all in one carton.

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com.
Copyright 2013 by Nancy A. Ruhling