Jeanine DiMenna is always on the go. Her travels include wining and dining in Louisiana’s French Quarter, soaking up the sun on the beaches of the Caribbean and hiking the steepest slopes of Korea. However, Jeanine loves her hometown the most, so she takes these trips without ever leaving Glen Cove. Chef Jeanine DiMenna travels through her cooking.
“I love to try new things in the kitchen,” Jeanine explains. “There are so many interesting regional cuisines and each has its own unique ingredients. My culinary journey won’t be complete until I try them all!”
Jeanine sets her sights high when it comes to mastering her trade but, truth be told, her culinary career began quite modestly. “As a teenager, I’d hang out with my friends in front of the Tiffany House Restaurant at the Glen Cove Golf Course,” she recalls. “We’d blast our music and it would drive the owners crazy. Eventually, they got tired of chasing us away and tried a different solution. They invited me inside and hired me to wash dishes.”
This strategy for cleaning up the restaurant’s exterior paid unexpected dividends for its interior. Jeanine was a natural in the kitchen and it wasn’t long before she was helping out on the line. “I didn’t really find cooking, it found me,” she explains. “But once I realized how satisfying it was to explore in the kitchen, I was hooked on a journey that continues to this day.”
In 1983, four years after beginning at the Tiffany House, Jeanine graduated from Glen Cove High School and decided to study restaurant management at Nassau Community College. However, that voyage never got launched. “I hated school and just couldn't get myself to study,” she explains. “I got poor grades and wound up dropping out. But cooking, well, that came naturally so I stuck with it and continued to learn.”
Jeanine’s difficulties in school were less about her deficiencies and more about deficiencies of the system. Unlike today’s classrooms which are well equipped to deal with students with special learning needs, those of the ‘80s were ill-suited for this purpose. Consequently, students like Jeanine often wound up frustrated and destined to fail. However, Jeanine’s lack of success with the books was in sharp contrast to what she was achieving in “the field” and by 1984, she had risen through the ranks to the position of head chef.
“Things were going great for me at the Tiffany House, but I knew I needed some formal education if I was going to continue to grow as a chef,” she recalls. “However, the curriculum at the top cooking schools is so heavily based on theory and this was a problem because books and I just don’t mix. Fortunately, my future mother-in-law found out about the Culinary Arts Program at New York Tech, which had a hands-on curriculum based on developing practical skills. That was just right for me!”
Jeanine attended NYT from 1984-86 and the knowledge she gained was the perfect complement for what she was learning at the Tiffany House. However, it soon became apparent that she would have to move on to continue to grow professionally. It was a difficult decision, but in 1986, she left the Tiffany House and began an 11-year tenure at the Harrison Conference Center, the facility now known as the Glen Cove Mansion. Jeanine’s experiences at the “Harrison House” were different than those at the Tiffany House as the facility’s strict corporate structure taught her about attention to detail and customer service. However, she was equally successful and had moved up to the position of Sous Chef when she realized it was time to move once again. “I learned a lot at the Harrison House, but after 11 years, I had reached a plateau,” she explains. “It was time to go back to the small restaurant setting.”
In 1997, Jeanine assumed the role of Assistant Chef at Page One Restaurant on School Street and one year later, she was promoted to Executive Chef. She became partners with owner Peter Antonopoulos not long thereafter. “From day one, Page One just felt right,” she explains. “It’s in the heart of Glen Cove and this city is very special to me. I love being a Glen Cove business owner!”
In her 17 years at Page One, Jeanine had a profound impact on her community. Never one to say no, she has earned the respect and admiration of Glen Cove residents by always being available when there is a friend in need. “Glen Cove is a big city, but it still has that small-town feel,” she explains. “I enjoy touching people’s lives in a positive manner and have been blessed with a gift that allows me to do so. Therefore, any time I can donate my cooking to a worthy cause, I take advantage of the opportunity.”
Jeanine’s community service resume is long, but one of her recent contributions stands out above the rest. Last spring, she took over another Glen Cove restaurant to get it open in time for the approaching busy season. That restaurant was The Soundview and the approaching season was for the golfers. Indeed, The Soundview was the restaurant formerly known as the Tiffany House!
Much like Jeanine, the restaurant at the Glen Cove Golf Course has undergone many changes in the 27 years since she left. After long-time owners Charlie Santos and John Sissons retired and the next ownership group moved on, new operators took charge in 2004 and renamed the restaurant The Soundview. The kitchen and dining room were enlarged and an outdoor Tiki bar was added. These changes were promising, but the restaurant never reached its full potential. A new owner was scheduled to take over for 2013, but he reneged at the last minute leaving the City in dire straits with the golf season rapidly approaching. Realizing that a quick fix was needed, then-Mayor Ralph Suozzi contacted Jeanine to see if she could get things up and running for the first two golf outings. She was happy to help out and when everything went well with those endeavors, he asked if she would be interested in finishing out the season. Once again, she agreed and as a token of appreciation, Suozzi and the majority of the City Council offered her the opportunity to take over the lease on a permanent basis. When she signed the contract, her journey to where it had all begun was complete.
“Once again, moving on was difficult, but saying goodbye to Page One allows me to devote my full attention to a project that has me very excited,” Jeanine says. “If all goes according to plans, the restaurant at the Glen Cove Golf Course will be Glen Cove’s newest hot spot! The view of Long Island Sound provides the perfect complement to the dining experience and I’ve got big plans for the cuisine!” Jeanine has renamed the restaurant The View Grill and plans on a menu that will be similar to what she offered at Page One, but with greater variety and more emphasis on American regional cuisine. “It’ll be a challenge, for sure, but it’s one I know I can handle,” Jeanine explains. “After all, while I’ve definitely come full circle, my journey is far from complete!”