Local Entrepreneur Feature: Michael Biancaniello

SaVino’s is a pizzeria students of LHS can always count on. During the lunch rush, many students walk to and from the restaurant; the dining area bustles with excited chatter and is fragrant with the warm smell of Italian cuisine. Soon, there is a comfortable silence in the establishment; a few people sit at various tables as the staff slowly revs up to meet the dinner throng.

This is all a regular experience for SaVino’s owner Michael Biancaniello and his staff. “[The restaurant business] is definitely [fast-paced], but I think that goes along with my personality, too. It is definitely nice to have the fast pace,” Biancaniello said. Although it is stressful at times, he believes he has adapted well. “It does not get boring in the way [that] you are not just always doing the same thing. There is always something happening,” he added. 

Biancaniello has about two dozen employees working at SaVino’s, both part time and full time; and with a queue of dozens of hungry high school students forming each day, there is much to do before they arrive. “As a manager, an owner, and a worker, I pretty much do everything here on a daily basis. We come in, we set up the counter, take orders on the phone, cook the pies, and get takeout orders ready. I also, on my own time, pay the bills and do some ordering of food and supplies. Deliveries are [checked in], making sure everything is in order throughout the whole day,” he explained.

Biancaniello explained that many of the techniques he uses now as a manager have been derived from his previous culinary experiences. He grew up in Merrick on Long Island, and as an Italian-American, Italian food played a central role in his upbringing. “I never really thought I would be working with food in general. [But] being Italian, it kind of just works, and I have a knowledge of Italian food; I always did. So, it was pretty much easy to learn,” he explained. “I do [like to cook], being in the restaurant business, and I enjoy it. I am not primarily working in the kitchen, but my expertise is pizza. I enjoy being hands-on, and pizza is definitely that kind of thing. I do like cooking for fun also. It is definitely nice to put things together.”

He began his career in the restaurant business fresh out of high school in 2009, working full time at a new restaurant his father and a few contractor friends had invested in. “It was a lot of work,” Biancaniello explained. “I took to it really well, and I learned a lot. After being there for about three and a half years, it was pretty much to do my own thing and take it elsewhere, which is SaVino’s now.” The first step was finding an ideal spot to open SaVino’s. Biancaniello was able to rely on his father, an experienced contractor, and his business partner at the time (who had previously owned a pizzeria in Massapequa) for assistance.

What about the genesis of the name SaVino’s? If it is not Biancaniello’s name, then what is it? “SaVino’s [is not] my name, but my mom actually came up with the name,” Biancaniello explained. “It was putting together my old partner’s name and then my father’s name. [It] was catchy, and obviously, having ‘vino’ in it, as in wine, we wanted something that would be easy to say and easy to remember.”

Biancaniello planned to open SaVino’s in 2012, which unfortunately was right when Hurricane Sandy happened. “[W]e were building the restaurant at the time [of Sandy]. It kind of made things delay a little bit, but thankfully, it did not happen while we were open because it would’ve been a business interruption,” he explained. However, the COVID-19 pandemic was the largest challenge that SaVino’s would face. Biancaniello dealt with much uncertainty about whether SaVino’s would stay open; it was particularly tough on him to be forced to lay off some of the waiters who were working in-house. 

Fortunately, most of the kitchen staff remained throughout the pandemic. As a food business that held an essential role in the community, SaVino’s offered takeout orders. “You know, in the beginning, no one really knew if they were going to stay open, so everyone was kind of worried: Were we going to shut down completely? Would we only do dining in?” Biancaniello recalled thinking. “Just being in business through all the stuff that’s been going on, through the economy and the world, and just working through that has been an experience. It helps me in real life too outside of work. I guess what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, so it’s definitely nice to get through those things, too.”

Throughout all the adversity, SaVinos’s has been a magnet in the Lynbrook community, bringing people together for various events, including the sponsoring of Little League and catering elementary school events as well as clubs here at LHS. “I plan on being here for a while. I definitely like serving the community and being close to the high school–and having a lot of regulars, too. It is nice to see familiar faces and be here for the people that always like coming in,” Biancaniello explained. He emphasized that many alumni even come back to SaVino’s, and has witnessed the growing up of hundreds of students throughout the years. Biancaniello concluded by providing a piece of advice to students: “As long as you work hard at stuff and you show up every day and are consistent–which is really important in life–hard work pays off.”