Donny Greco, owner of Donny G’s Ristorante and Bar, at 7308 W. North Ave., is a self-proclaimed social butterfly. He greets customers by name at the door and personally checks on every table—he is even known to offer his own musical stylings to entertain guests.
Located on the threshold of Restaurant Row in Elmwood Park, the mainstay restaurant has made a name for itself by serving simple Italian home-style fare with considerable musical flair.
In mid-March Greco made his dream of having a dedicated lounge associated with his namesake restaurant come true. Housed in the neighboring building, Donny G’s Lounge and Event Space, went through an extensive renovation to create the comfortably modern entertaining area. A large bar, featuring high-end finishes and a rich blue color palate, anchors the lounge designed to host an array of private events like baby showers, birthday parties and business meetings. Additionally, the versatile space doubles as an annex where customers can enjoy live music performances and a post-meal cocktail.
When the pandemic forced Greco to close his dining room, bar and lounge, the gregarious owner went into “survival mode.” Even with 35 years of industry experience Greco could not have conceived of a scenario like the one he has endured over the past several months.
“Without people coming to my little restaurant the whole happiness element was gone. I gained 18-pounds waiting for carryout orders in an empty restaurant,” said Greco. “I feel alive again now that we’ve reopened.”
Today, every guest entering Donny G’s is temperature checked using a hands-free infrared heat sensor. The hefty investment gives owner, Donny Greco, peace of mind.
“At the very least we know every guest and employee is fever free when they are here,” said Greco, “We also have dispensers for hand sanitizer attached to the wall and tables with red coverings are there to create proper social distancing.”
Greco’s primary goal is to keep customers safe during these unprecedented times. His business partner, Dan Grammatis, notes their compliance focused approach allows both first time and longtime customers to have a good meal in a safe and clean environment.
“Do you know why I come here three times per week?” asked Donny G’s regular, Rick Bono. “Because I know it is safe. Donny makes people feel like family and the food is good.”
Since reopening regular customers have been eager to return to the restaurant, small private events have picked up and live music has returned to the lounge on Friday and Saturday evenings. Greco has a full entertainment line-up for the remainder of August and into September. Daniela Crocco, a “singer for all occasions,” will grace the stage on September 11 and Ollie Bolds, will bring his Motown, jazz and blues stylings to Donny G’s Lounge on September 18. Greco will perform his own lounge act on September 26. The space can hold more than 30 guests while maintaining proper social distancing.
The neighborhood has been supportive throughout the crisis. While the restaurant was closed, loyal customers helped Donny G’s build a first-time carryout business to supplement lost revenue. Since reopening, in-person dining is steadily picking up. Even as his dining room begins to bustle again, Greco is pleased Donny G’s newfound carry-out business has remained robust.
“Elmwood Park is home to iconic restaurants like New Star, Johnny’s, Alpine, Jim and Pete’s and Massa–these places have a solid reputation. We’re all waiting for a vaccine to curtail this terrible virus,” said Greco. “Like Donny G’s, all of these restaurants are adapting, and the community is fighting for all of us.”