More than three decades into being a chef, longtime Oceanside resident Stephen Pasetti said people still come up to him and ask if he’s serving his grandfather’s coleslaw.
“My grandfather’s recipe was renowned,” he said fondly. “People came from Queens to buy this stuff, so now people still come in and ask me if I’m making the coleslaw.”
Pasetti, who will turn 56 on Nov. 14, has been the executive chef at O’Connell Gardens, at 2985 Kenneth Place in Oceanside, since January, but his family’s roots to serving culinary delights in the hamlet stretch for generations. His family owned Pasetti’s Luncheonette, where Brasserie Persil is now in business, on Long Beach Road in Oceanside, for 50 years — from 1953 to 2003.
Pasetti recalled that the business used to be packed, whether it was teachers on lunch, students who ditched school and got caught by said teachers, or the gaggle of hungry employees and customers who worked or shopped at a former clothing store next door who wanted a quick bite.
It was working at the family business that piqued Pasetti’s interest in the culinary arts. After graduating from Oceanside High School in 1980, he earned a degree in food service administration and restaurant management at Nassau Community College and went on to attend the renowned Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1985.
After graduating, he took over the luncheonette and began a catering business after a friend made up a business card for him. “As a joke, I put it on my counter,” he recalled, “and it took off.”
After the luncheonette closed, Pasetti helped open Farmer Joel’s, at 177 Davison Ave. in Oceanside, where he remained for more than a decade before becoming a chef at Mercy Medical Center, in Rockville Centre. Soon after, he was asked if he was interested in replacing the executive chef at O’Connell Gardens after he retired, an opportunity he said he was excited to pursue.
“I like being able to be creative and change the menu around,” he said. “Everything is fresh. I’m able to do my own thing, and people have known my cooking for years, and it’s home cooking and I was able to do that again over there.”
At O’Connell Gardens, Pasetti said, the eggplant rollatini and herb-crusted salmon are two of the most popular dishes and, unsurprisingly, his grandfather’s coleslaw recipe remains a common order.
Pasetti said that being able to pursue his dream of being a chef has meant a lot to him. “It’s pretty much what I was searching for,” he said. “I’m doing what I really want to do — I landed.”