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Friday, June 21, 2024

Every Time They Think They’re Out, We Pull Them Back In!


For Immediate Release: Panico’s is back.

The last time The Messenger checked in with community staple Donato Panico, second-generation owner and operator of Panico’s Community Market at 186 Terry Road in Smithtown, he was ushering in a new era as the calendar turned over to 2023.

After he and his doting team leapfrogged past Lessing’s Hospitality Group to win the catering contract to Smithtown Landing Country Club in the fall, the transition became official on January 1. Confronting the reality he could not juggle both at once while Smithtown Landing demanded his full-tilt attention, Panico sold the beloved community market storefront to new ownership… and it ended up closing shop a week prior to Super Bowl Sunday. 

Thus commenced the community outcry.

Fast forward a few months later: A no-caption Facebook post of the market’s interior with renovative work abound inspired the masses to flood his comments with hopeful speculation that the return of Panico’s Community Market was imminent. This came after weeks of Panico receiving one message and phone call after the next from friends and local residents alike voicing their shared melancholy over stopping by for an old reliable Panico hero, only to find their culinary hero’s stomping groups to be no more, once more (He briefly folded prior in conjunction with his 2018 retirement before returning in 2019).

Glass half-fullers of Smithtown and its neighboring areas need not cross their fingers any longer, though. Panico met withThe Messengeron Wednesday and confirmed they would be up and running again “by this time next week.”

”I am excited to run the place the way it’s supposed to be run,” Panico told The Messenger.

“That’s the most important thing. To see the customers I’ve been missing for the last few months since October when we sold it… then we are also excited to feed all of Landing the good food too!” 

Panico calls the Smithtown Landing catering takeover the “most intense undertaking I’ve ever taken on.” Now committed to taking on the challenge of running both operations simultaneously, Panico knows he can rely on “the great team behind us” and the manager he’s soon to hire for the Market side of affairs. What’s more: he’s also excited to welcome back an all too familiar face into the fold that’s been sorely missed.

“I brought my dad out of retirement,” Panico revealed, his father Richie having opened the store back in 1980. Forty-three years later, Richie Panico is as confident in his meat preparation as he’s ever been. 

Richie put it bluntly: “My end… is meat.”

“I’m in the business since I’m 14,” he added. “ I’m 81 [now], you know what I mean? My son does everything else, all the catering, and the cold cuts. We’re excited to be back.”

Originating his food preparation craft as a Brooklynite teenager, Richie would later go on to run the meat department of Huntington Community Market before going off on his own. Needless to say, that decision has more than paid off— with the Panico family and the community they represent long reaping the benefits. 

Panico’s Community Market: ‘We’re Here to Stay!’

“They have hearts of gold,” said Belinda Groneman, of East Islip.

“They’ve been the go-to of my family’s, and many others’ catered events and delicatessen needs for decades,” said Connor Cutino, 24, of Patchogue. The 2017 Hauppauge graduate added, “They’ve catered all of my family’s events, big or small.”

The key to Panico’s’ sandwich artistry? Everyone agrees: it’s consistency. “Nobody does chicken cutlets like we do,” Richie declares. 

“Can’t wait to get back there and try out ‘The Zeldin,’ right up my alley,” Cutino added, after being informed of the chicken parmigiana hero with vodka sauce special named after 2022 gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, of Shirley. “And knowing Donato,” Cutino said, “it’ll be atop my favorites, as per usual.” 

Speaking of “The Zeldin,” Panico whimsically stated that when Zeldin himself reached out, exclaiming his personal disappointment and not being able to come in to get his personal favorite order anymore, it inspired him to expedite the inevitable return. 

Panico exclaimed: “We couldn’t let Lee Zeldin down!” 

Now that he’s back where he belongs, Donato and his family shan’t soon let down their community. They are here to stay, and excited to ring in the summer that will also include a Smithtown Landing-held fundraiser for Panico’s September 11, 2001-inspired first-responder and Veteran-feeding non-profit “Heros 4 Our Heroes”on July 7. See you there, and see you at the Market. 

For event booking information at Smithtown Landing Country Club, visit smithtownlandingcc.com. To donate to Heros 4 Our Heroes, visit Heros4OurHeroes.com.

Michael J. Reistetter
Michael J. Reistetter
Mike Reistetter, former Editor in Chief, is now a guest contributor to The Messenger Papers. Mike's current career in film production allows for his unique outlook on entertainment writing. Mike has won second place in "Best Editorials" at the New York Press Association 2022 Better Newspaper Contest.