Brothers Anthony and Domenico Sacramone opened Sac’s Place in Astoria in 1989 with the goal of sharing both their family’s cuisine and story.
This week, the Sacramone brothers will host the 23rd annual Abruzzo Pastoral Night at Sac’s Place, a festival that pays tribute to their roots in the Italian region of the same name. The event includes an antipasto, fresh vegetables, and a massive pig roast, and is an opportunity for the restaurant’s owners to reflect on the immigrant experience.
“It began in 1904 when my grandfather came to the states,” Domenico — the younger of the two brothers — explained. “Long story short, he was a married young man but my grandmother didn’t want to come to America. So he would work extra hours all year so he could take the whole month of August to visit her in Italy.”
These long visits helped the Sacramone’s stay in touch with their heritage, a strong connection that continued even after Anthony and Domenico’s parents permanently moved to the U.S. in the 50s.
When it came time for the brothers to start their own professional lives, they decided to open a restaurant that would pay tribute to their family’s home.
Located at Kaufman Studios at 35-11 35th Avenue, Sac’s Place serves wood-fired pizza and a number of specialty dishes that come straight from the Abruzzo region of Italy.
“Of course we serve classics like eggplant and veal parmesan because people love those, but we also offer more unique things that we learned from our mother and family,” Domenico said. “Our region where we come from was exactly 20 kilometers from the sea and 20 kilometers from the mountain. So we serve a lot of lamb and fish with fresh vegetables and ingredients.”
Astoria is rather far from Italy, so the brothers source all of their fruits and vegetables from a farm in Pennsylvania. This allows them to offer unique seasonal dishes, such as the butternut squash cavatelli that was recently on the menu.
Like their ancestors, Anthony and Domenico believe that it is important to celebrate a successful harvest every fall.
“Many years ago we were thinking of ideas, and said what better way to honor our grandparents and parents than to have a harvest festival,” Domenico said. “When the harvest was done in the old days, our family would finally have enough to buy pigs and roast a couple of them.”
The Abruzzo Pastoral Nights event has been emulating this tradition for 23 years, culminating in a pig roast that offers enough food to all the guests. This year’s festival is scheduled for November 4 and 11, and will include all-you-can-eat stuffed cabbage, yams, potatoes, asparagus, and dessert.
“There’s always a communal feeling,” Domenico said. “We were able to have the event outside last year, and a lot of people still came out much to our amazement. It is always important to us. Even if only 20 people showed up, it would still be important to us.”
Luckily, dozens more people are expected to attend this year’s indoor event. As the Abruzzo Pastoral Nights festival continues to evolve into its own tradition, the Sacramone’s are grateful that they are able to remind Astorians about the various immigrant communities that have called the neighborhood home.
“I think it’s important for us to keep doing this because there are some second and third-generation Italians who have no idea what it was like in the old country and how hard it is to make certain things,” Domenico said. “It’s important to also share your culture with others.
“My brother and I don’t only eat Italian food,” he added. “We also go to all the Greek, Japanese, and other restaurants in Astoria. You get to learn their traditions, and we are happy to share our 12-hour slow cooked pig with anyone who wants to try it.”
Anthony and Domenico have found great success sharing their family’s food and history, and they are hopeful that their experience will inspire others to share what is important to them.
“Don’t be afraid to show people what you can do,” Domenico said. “Of course you have to work hard and do your market research to create a business — and your business might even fail — but it is so rewarding to take a chance on something you love.”
The all-you-can-eat Abruzzo Pastoral Night Pig Roast costs $65 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (718) 204-5002.