Anthony Russo and his brothers took over the historic Gargiulo’s Restaurant at 2911 W. 15th St. in 1965. The eatery still retains much of its character from when the Gargiulo family owned it, including the historic Grand Ballroom, which was popular for weddings. Russo, who was born and raised on Coney Island, said that today some of those couples celebrate their long-time anniversaries there. The Russo family lineage hails from Sorrento, Italy, and the restaurant prides itself on fine dining and serves up traditional Neopolitan cuisine.
What are some changes you’ve seen in Coney Island?
It’s friendlier now. There are more bars and restaurants and there’s new rides and more rides for children. It’s getting newer and bringing more people down here. The past wasn’t working. There’s also an overflow of Russian people, coming from Brighton Beach, it used to be Italian when I was younger so the culture is changing.
What could be better about the neighborhood?
It could use a nice hotel. Right now I don’t think it’s a concrete destination. It’s good for a day trip but you could also spend one day on the beach and another day on the rides. If they put a Comfort Inn or something here, it wouldn’t hurt. If you can put a Comfort Inn in Sheepshead Bay you can put one here. Something like that would be a positive thing.
Do you have any outstanding memories growing up here?
I remember the wax museum on the corner of 15th [Street] and Surf [Avenue] and the wax fortune teller lady there that was always laughing, she would always creep me out. I remember the old lady who lived under the old wooden Thunderbolt, she had full house there. It’s day and night from the ’70s and ’80s to today.