Photos by John Bruno Turiano
The Eastchester resident behind Tutta Bella Trattoria in Eastchester, Sergio’s Ristorante in Pelham, and Sergio’s Saw Pit in Port Chester puts the customer first.
At one of the first restaurants Chef Sergio Gashi worked in, the owner told a customer: “We don’t do that” when the latter asked for cheese on a plate of linguine and clam sauce, rehashing the food-industry axiom that cheese generally overpowers the delicate flavors of seafood. “The customer left,” says Gashi, who took a lesson from that experience that he would later apply at his restaurants, Tutta Bella Trattoria in Eastchester, Sergio’s Ristorante in Pelham, and his latest, and the one of the three he solely owns, Sergio’s Saw Pit in Port Chester.
“Always do what the customer wants to make them happy,” the Eastchester resident explains. “For me, a well-done steak becomes dried out and not what I would order. But I will happily prepare a steak well-done for someone.” Gashi’s philosophy regarding customer service goes to yet another level. “Treat the customer like they own the restaurant, not you.”
All of Gashi’s restaurants have ardent regulars who respect his customer-on-a-pedestal attitude, as well as his assiduous work ethic. Gashi’s son Ardi, who works at Sergio’s Port Chester as a host and pastry chef, making approximately 10 topflight desserts, confirms his father’s claim that he went a 10-year stretch at Tutta Bella without a day off. “You have to be present to have a successful restaurant,” says Gashi. He has three other sons: Fidan, who works at Tutta Bella; Alban, at Sergio’s of Pelham; and Fisler, who is learning pastry at Sergio’s Saw Pit.
Gashi’s giving nature is another reason for his steady group of supporters.
Before the menus hit the table, a gratis bowl of multi-colored olives, basket of house-made breads, and plate of cheeses with truffle honey dip arrive. He also has annual customer-appreciation dinners, where regulars and friends are invited for a complimentary meal. “You give a little; you get back a lot,” he explains.
The menus are similar at the trifecta of restaurants: The cuisine is Northern Italian, with house-made pastas, steaks, and chops, veal and chicken martinis, Parmigiana, plus a host of other classic iterations. At Sergio’s Saw Pit, Chef Ricky Micili heads up the kitchen and prepares 10 to 15 specials daily, such as osso buco and sesame-crusted tuna with seaweed salad. Sautéed artichokes, seafood platters, and mushroom ravioli are signature dishes on the regular menu. “No ingredients are frozen,” says Micili. Vendors include Cosenza Fish Market and Biancardi Meats on Arthur Avenue, Master Purveyors at Hunts Point Coop Market, and produce distributor FreshPoint.
Future plans are for a high-end brunch with lots of seafood and a Champagne cart.
“America is the best country, and I’m lucky to be here,” Gashi says. “I was a goatherd and sheepherder in Kosovo in 1986, making cheese and yogurt before coming here. Now I have three restaurants.”
His devoted customer base would likely say it’s America that’s lucky to have Gashi.
Sergio’s Saw Pit
25 S. Regent St, Port Chester; 914.881.3220