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Tuscany Gourmet Market

This year's event will feature samplings from Danfords Wave Seafood & Steak

Save the date! The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Dan’s Papers, will host its 11th annual The Taste @ Port Jefferson at the Village Center, 101-A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson overlooking the Harborfront Park and harbor on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 6 to 10 p.m.

This year’s event will feature  samplings from Kilwins. 

In celebration, the chamber has reached out to the greater Port Jefferson restaurant community and will highlight over 20 restaurants and purveyors offering top-quality food tastings and desserts as well as samples of premium liquors, wines and beers. The event, for ages 21 and over, will feature musical entertainment by the popular band 1 Step Ahead. 

As of press time, participating businesses include Barito’s, Bliss Restaurant, C’est Cheese, Costco, Danfords Wave Seafood & Steak, Dos MexiCuban Cantina, Kilwins, Flying Pig Cafe, Haikara Sake, Twin Stills Moonshine, L.I. Pour House Bar & Grill, Locals Cafe, Manhattan Beer, MELTology Mount Sinai, PJ Brewing Co., Port Jefferson Frigate, PJ Lobster House, Slurp Ramen, Starbucks, The Steam Room, St. Charles Hospital, Tuscany Gourmet Market, Uncle Giuseppe’s and The Waterview at Port Jefferson Country Club.

Sponsors this year include St. Charles Hospital, Paraco Gas, Harbor Hot Tubs, Haikara, TGIF Rentals and Fenelon Landscapes. BNB Bank is this year’s VIP Lounge Sponsor Dan’s Papers is the media sponsor.

Tickets, which may be purchased online at www.tasteatportjeff.com, are $70 per person for general admission starting at 7 p.m. and $99 for VIP guests at 6 p.m., which includes early access by one hour, a special VIP lounge with a private seating area, speciality spirits, dishes, wine pours and more. For further details, call 631-473-1414.

Donates food to St. James' nonprofit after servicemen and women were displaced from Northport VA home

St. James residents William Mountzouros, Robert Cornicelli and Allan Fajardo, members of nonprofit Veterans for a More Responsive Government, deliver donated food to residents on the day of Super Bowl LII. Photo from Robert Cornicelli

On the day of the big game, Tommy O’Grady was the real patriot.

The owner of Miller Place’s Tuscany Gourmet Market donated food for 107 local veterans to make sure the servicemen and women could enjoy Super Bowl LII. Original plans had been to prepare a feast for 40 veterans at the VA Northport Beacon House Homeless Shelter through Veterans for a More Responsive Government, a nonprofit working to increase the public’s awareness of harassment and mistreatment of disabled U.S. veterans. Pipes burst at the Beacon House, and the veterans were split up and moved to nine different homes after making plans to watch the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots duke it out. When O’Grady was approached with the change of plans, he didn’t hesitate to alter his.

Tommy O’Grady, owner of Tuscany Gourmet Market in Miller Place, donated feasts for local veterans in need. File photo

“I have a gifted life, I’m doing well right now, and to see people who put their lives on the line and did their time in need, it’s not right,” O’Grady said. “For me, to give this to them, it’s the only way to say, ‘Thank you.’”

O’Grady had been connected with Robert Cornicelli, founder of Veterans for a More Responsive Government, through his childhood friend and Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle. The two grew up in Centereach together, and when LaValle was approached by Cornicelli asking first for help stretching his $540 into food for 40, he knew who to call.

“Tommy is the type of guy I’m almost afraid to talk in front of because God forbid you mention somebody is in need, he jumps right on it in two seconds,” the chairman said. “I was so embarrassed to call him back and tell him there’d been a change of plans, but when Robert went in to sit with him after the vet relocations he still said ‘I’ve got everything.’ They were stunned — they literally had tears in their eyes. They couldn’t believe how generous he was going to be. That’s a hell of a donation.”

Cornicelli, who served in the United States Army from 1986 to 1994 and retuned as a captain until his retirement in November 2017, has provided meals for veterans around the holidays for some time, but officially founded his nonprofit this year. A disabled veteran himself, he’s undergone four back surgeries, knee surgery and foot surgery, and said while his mission this time around was to make the party happen despite the setback, he said he hopes a mindfulness for the needs of veterans emerges.

“If everyone did what Tommy did, there’d be a lot fewer problems in this world, that’s for sure — certainly there wouldn’t be any world hunger.”

— John Jay LaValle

“The conditions at the Beacon House are horrible,” he said. “I took photos of moldy walls, ceilings, it’s disguising.”

O’Grady said he wanted to donate the not-so-standard London broil and balsamic chicken heroes, wings, salads and cookie trays so that the money Cornicelli had raised, matched with a donation from LaValle’s Republican National Committee funds, could go toward repairs.

“Robert is passionate about this, and I’m just backing him,” the Tuscany Market owner said. “We’re making it all happen for him. We want to raise awareness, so people can come together to get this home fixed.”

Cornicelli teamed up with fellow St. James residents William Mountzouros, a volunteer, and Allan Fajardo, a veteran, to drop off the food at the various veteran homes. Fajardo said he has been directly affected by Cornicelli. The Honduras native served in the Army from 1994 to 2016, and enlisted Cornicelli. He returned to the states a homeless veteran, and his friend opened his home to him, providing food and shelter. With the help of LaValle and former Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Fajardo earned part-time jobs within Smithtown and Brookhaven towns, eventually becoming an investigator for the Town of Islip.

“It’s thanks to those guys that I’m here,” Fajardo said. “When I saw the work [Cornicelli] was doing I immediately hopped on board. It’s a great feeling helping out brothers and sisters in need.”

Forty veterans were displaced after pipes burst at the VA Northport Beacon House Homeless Shelter. File photo

LaValle said seeing the groups of “good guys” come together has been mental therapy for him.

“It’s a tough world right now,” he said. “It’s a very hostile world at times. This is something that’s been really rewarding because you learn you may think you have it bad, and you may be whining about something, but it’s very true that there’s always someone out there who has it worse. Now I want to do more to help out.”

He pointed to Cornicelli and O’Grady as prime examples of model citizens.

“If everyone did what Tommy did, there’d be a lot fewer problems in this world, that’s for sure — certainly there wouldn’t be any world hunger,” he said, laughing. “And what Robert is doing is absolutely wonderful, he deserves a lot of credit.”

But on the day of the Super Bowl, Cornicelli called O’Grady the real hero, who donated much more than just heroes.

“I never met the guy in my life, and he tells me he’s taking care of the whole thing. It’s unbelievable,” Cornicelli said. “He broke everything down to the exact amount needed to feed the veterans at each location, and it’s an amazing feeling when these guys’ eyes are wide open, saying, “This is what we’re getting?” rather than bagged lunches. It’s refreshing to see guys helping out. Tommy, he’s one of the greatest patriots I’ve ever met.”

Tuscany Gourmet Market owners Rich Fink and Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

By Desirée Keegan

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

That’s what it’s like when entering Tuscany Gourmet Market. Customers step through the sliding doors of the 10-year-old establishment’s new location on 25A in Miller Place and are immediately greeted by staff members. Restaurant-quality foods, imported cheeses and fine meats are available everywhere the eye can see at the family owned fare. Owner Tommy O’Grady is even known to whip up specialty items if a customer can’t find exactly what they were looking for, and if they can’t do that, they’ll find a way to get it.

But that’s not even half of what Miller Place residents say makes the market so special. To many, it’s that the warm, welcoming atmosphere is coupled with sincere care for the community.

Tuscany Gourmet Market manager Rich Fink and owner Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski first visited Tuscany Market five years ago as a customer. She said right away, she knew it was a place she wanted to shop.

“It felt like family, like they were family,” she said of her first experience, which was at the business’ previous location closer to Mount Sinai. “It didn’t feel like a corporate place. It felt like a mom-and-pop shop where they knew everybody in the neighborhood and everyone in the neighborhood knew them.”

O’Grady gets to know each customer, his or her family and usual orders in what many consider a very tight-knit Miller Place community.

“They are consistently going above and beyond, and in many cases it’s unsolicited,” Kozlowski said. “I try to give them my business every opportunity that I have. I always recommend them. One, because I truly think that their service and their products are well above average — exceptional. And two, because I always think that their service to the community should be recognized.”

Kozlowski, who is also the founder of North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide support services for local families fighting cancer, approached the owner seeking donations as part of a fundraising effort for local boy Thomas Scully, who was fighting anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer.

O’Grady said he’s known Thomas since his mother was bringing him into the store in a bassinet.

“To hear this happening to someone in your community, it’s like it happened to your own family,” he said. “I immediately knew I wanted to do all I could.”

Jennifer Brunet, Thomas’ aunt, said there were two fundraisers held for her brother’s family — at the Miller Place Fire Department and at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, which is now Recipe 7. Brunet said at the second fundraiser, in 2015, O’Grady ran the show.

“They genuinely wanted to be there for Thomas,” she said. “Not only did they donate stuff, every staff member came and donated their time to help — brought food, brought raffle items — they did everything.”

Tuscany Gourmet Market owner Rich Tommy O’Grady is known for helping cater a myriad of fundraisers. Photo From Patti Kozlowski

The business kept raising money for the family until Thomas died in summer 2016 and continued to help amid the wake and funeral.

“When Thomas passed away they reached out to me immediately and said, ‘We want to take care of everything,’” Brunet recalled. “And they did. They could have very well shown up at my house with a hero, but when we came back from the first wake session with my entire family everything was set up — salads, entrées, vegetables; there were choices for kids to eat, everything. And when I came home from the second wake everything was wrapped up and the place was clean. I didn’t have to do a thing. They were unbelievable.”

Thomas’ mother Debbie Scully said the kind, giving, selfless nature of the Tuscany Market owner and employees moved her beyond words.

“We were busy doing what we needed to do to take care of our son and they were giving us gift cards to come get food and showed so much support,” she said. “Tom would never let us pay for anything when we’d go there, he’d say, ‘When you get back on your feet then you can pay, until then, no.’ And it was endless, because after Thomas passed away they continued to give. It was over three years of them taking care of us and not asking for a thing in return.”

Scully said the family started a foundation in Thomas’ memory to help other children with cancer, and Tuscany Market members wanted to remain involved.

“He goes, ‘All right, what can I do? Let me know when the next event is,’” she said of O’Grady. “When you go through what our family went through, you don’t know what you need, but you do need help. And to have somebody preempting that and just being there and being supportive, it made it a little bit easier for us. That’s priceless.”

That caring, community-centric, no-questions-asked attitude reverberates beyond Miller Place.

Jennifer Hunt works with Kozlowski for team Fight Like a Girl, which participates in the LI2Day Walk, a 13.1-mile walk that celebrates cancer survivors and raises funds for local Long Island families battling cancer. The team hosts its own fundraiser, a Chinese auction, for which Tuscany Market has provided gift cards and what Hunt referred to as “high end” baskets.

Tuscany Gourmet Market workers volunteer time to help cater an event. Photo From Jennifer Hunt

“Without businesses like that, the money that we raise to help people in our neighborhood fighting cancer, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “The fact that they’re willing to step up is tremendous. Not many people do as much as they do.”

Most recently, the owners stepped up to help Shoreham-Wading River freshman Alexa Boucher, who was diagnosed with orbital rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the eye socket. A sold-out spaghetti fundraiser was held at the Wading River Fire Department, and Tuscany Market catered the event, donating food, paper goods and wait staff for a 150-person dinner.

“Originally, it was going to be a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse,” Hunt said. “But no one knew how it was going to run — it was a little overwhelming — so Tommy decided he would just do it and cater it from soup to nuts. I’m there shopping all the time because the food is so good and everyone is just so nice and helpful, but it’s also nice that they’re willing to step up in any way you ask them to.”

It’s said it takes a village, and O’Grady is said to emit so much joy doing what they’re doing to support their neighbors.

“Their kindness is alive and kicking in them,” Scully said. “It’s like you’re watching a movie of this little community where everyone comes out and supports each other and has each other’s back and looks out for each other. They are at the heart of that, they embody that. We’re very lucky to have them in our community.”

Tuscany Market helps provide for those that need it most, in a place where everybody knows your name.

This version was updated to correct that Tommy O’Grady is the owner of Tuscany Gourmet Market. Rich Fink is a manager there.

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Santa’s been sticking around the Heritage Center in Mount Sinai for the last few days.

On Sunday, Santa paid a special visit to the park for its annual breakfast. Year after year families get a closer look at Santa. Lori Baldassare, President of Heritage Trust, says residents also bring nonperishable food items that are donated to local pantries.

Tuscany Gourmet Market provided a buffet breakfast, and families met with Santa and could receive a professional photo by Faraz and Patricia Zaidi from Aw Snap Booths from Selden. Children were also given food for Santa’s reindeer to help jolly ole St. Nick find his way around the neighborhood on Christmas day.

Baldassare started Breakfast with Santa 21 years ago when she was the president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association. The event was held in the Handlebar restaurant in Mount Sinai — the restaurant owners sold the property 2008. In 2003, when the park was still in it’s early construction phase, Baldassare left the civic association for Heritage Trust, and the event followed.

“The community place is the perfect place to hold the event because it was created to be the [community’s] gathering place,” Baldassare said. “It signifies the tradition of [a] community.”

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