Even fire couldn’t stop this family from bringing back the Farmingdale Diner


This couple from Lake Grove purchased the decades-old Farmingdale Diner in 2019 and immediately got to renovating the landmark building at 17 Hempstead Turnpike.

Four months later, the pandemic shutdowns began. 

But they muscled through, despite not having a built-in base of longtime regulars. Then, just a year later, they had a transformer fire that shut them down for another five months. An entire dining room had to be gutted. 

Was quitting on the table?

“No,” owner Harry Savvides said matter of factly.

“We kept on,” said his wife, Dina. “We weren’t going to go down so easily.”

They did it as a family, as the couple found a lifeline in their three daughters: Maria, 28, Sophia, 26, and Samantha, 23. The young women dropped everything to help with the family business.

“They never say no,” Dina said of her daughters. And she makes no secret that it’s a dream come true to have the entire family working together. “They’re always here. They’re good girls.”

Today, business is steady and reviews are glowing.

Taking over

The Savvides family took over the Farmingdale Diner, located at 17 Hempstead Turnpike in Farmingdale, in November of 2019. A 2020 transformer fire a year later shut them down for five months.

The Farmingdale Diner has stood prominently on the busy turnpike since the late 50s or early 60s. The Savvides’ don’t know the exact date, but it’s about 65 years old.

During that time, the diner changed hands a few times. The most recent, prior owner had a short-lived run, less than a year, before closing shop.

Meanwhile, Harry Savvides, 60, who’s been in the diner and catering business for 35 years, was between locations and looking for a great one.

“And we found this,” he said. “It was a great location with history, and all this traffic passing by.”

But the place needed work. 

So before any spatula hit a griddle, he and his team gave the place an interior facelift.

The most important component, however, was updating the menu. With that, combined with Harry’s lifelong commitment to top-quality ingredients, customers started coming back. 

First for takeout, of course, due to the state’s shutdowns. But then for outdoor dining in the parking lot. 

Eventually, the Farmingdale Diner was buzzing with people once again. 

The “Under New Ownership” banners that were raised outside the diner helped, too.

“We changed the quality of the food,” said Harry. “We expanded the menu with lots of new items, such as wraps and an extensive panini menu. We also added a freshly squeezed orange juice machine and a full liquor bar.” Prior owners just sold beer and wine.

While most Long Islanders have found prices have skyrocketed at their local diners, even before the pandemic, the Savvides family believes strongly in good food at a good price.

For instance, a bacon burger at Farmingdale Diner will run you $11.95.

Keeping with these foodie times, the diner also has a specialty burger menu that now offers seven different options. Among them is the popular California Burger, which is all beef and topped with sliced avocado, strips of bacon, melted cheddar and chipotle mayo ($17.95).

The Wrappers & Quesadillas menu offers 25 different options. 

And there are 14 different paninis to choose from, each served with fries for $18.95.

For breakfast, Farmingdale Diner’s Pancakes, French Toast & Waffles menu offers 12 different options, including the Reese’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip griddle specialty on the right.

Family charm

What tickles customers most, it seems, is the family.

On any given day, two of three sisters are working at the diner, along with their parents. You’ll likely be greeted by one sister, and bid adieu by the other — or their mom.

“One of us will be seating, playing hostess, working the register or helping behind the counter with to-go orders,” Maria said. “And dad’s usually calling out orders into the kitchen.”

This wasn’t exactly the plan, however.

With would-be employees still staying home as the pandemic restrictions lifted, Harry and Dina needed their daughters’ help on a regular basis to keep Farmigndale Diner operating.

That was nearly three years ago, and the three have never left.

And they’re happy.

“We can always rely on one another,” Maria said. “We never have to worry about someone not showing up for work that day and we’re all motivated in the same way.”

For this family, faced with shutdowns and then a fire — which would have destroyed their restaurant had it happened overnight, firefighters told them — Harry said all it took was “perseverance.”

“And a lot of patience,” Dina added.

They also found some luck in great employees from the last ownership who stayed on board.

“That made the transition easier,” Maria said. “When we were closed for the pandemic and then the fire, they were loyal and didn’t leave us to go find other jobs. They also have a loyal following in the neighborhood.”

Now they want to spread the word that Farmingdale Diner has returned to its former glory, with one reviewer saying the family even took things up a notch from the most beloved former ownership, who were featured on Food Network.

The family is betting heavily on repeat customers to help keep the diner running and open for a long time here on Long Island, a place in America rivaled only by New Jersey for its passion for diners.

Harry asks only this: “Come in and try the food.”

And meet the family. 

Top (L-R): Maria, Dina, Harry, Samantha and Sophia Savvides at their Farmingdale Diner. (Michael White)

Click here to follow Farmingdale DIner on Facebook. Click here to follow them on Instagram.


The Farmingdale Diner recently launched a full catering menu, with breakfast platters, burger platters, sandwich and wrap platters, cold platters, salad platters and hot trays, sides and desserts. Call 516-777-3377 to get in touch.