Joey DiBernardo loved the firehouse — “His favorite place in the whole world,” his dad recalled — and whipping up feasts for fellow firefighters.
“He was a great cook, my father was a great cook, but it somehow skipped me,” the elder Joseph DiBernardo, a retired FDNY deputy chief, told Greater Long Island. “When I was a firefighter, all I did was the dishes.”
In tribute to Joey DiBernardo — who died 12 years ago today, Nov. 22, from the lingering effects of injuries suffered during a 2005 “Black Sunday” fire in The Bronx — his family is combining two of his passions with The Firehouse Restaurant & Bar in Sound Beach.
There is no timetable yet for opening the restaurant at 30 New York Ave., which previously housed The Hartlin Inn, a landmark bar and grill that closed in 2021 after being in business for more than a quarter of a century.
Joseph DiBernardo and wife Barbara of Miller Beach decided to buy the nearly 90-year-old building after The Hartlin Inn shuttered during the pandemic, with plans to open a new restaurant in what had long been a popular draw in Sound Beach.
“My wife and I used to go to The Hartlin a couple of times a week,” he said. “We used to go there after Joey’s passing.”
The younger DiBernardo, who started out as a volunteer with the Setauket Fire Department in 1989, joined the New York City Fire Department as a fire dispatcher in 1993.
Two years later, he became a probationary city firefighter, following in the footsteps of his father, who retired in 2001 after more than three decades with the FDNY.
He was working for Rescue Co. 3 in The Bronx in January 2005 on what became known as “Black Sunday” — when three members of The Bravest died in fires in The Bronx and Brooklyn on a single day.
DiBernardo was severely burned and fractured both feet, among other serious injuries, after he and three other trapped firefighters jumped out of a burning building on East 178th Street. Lt. Curtis Meyran of Battalion 26 and Lt. John Bellew of Ladder 27 died after leaping from the building, while Firefighter Jeff Cool and DiBernardo survived with massive injuries that kept them hospitalized for weeks.
At the time, the FDNY did not equip firefighters with personal safety ropes that could have helped them escape the burning building, a policy reversed after the 2005 fire.
DiBernardo succumbed at age 40 on Nov. 22, 2011 — “from injuries in the fire,” his father said — and his family established the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation to raise money for personal safety equipment and training for fire departments.
It’s one part of DiBernardo’s legacy, with another coming in the form of The Firehouse Restaurant & Bar.
After more than two years of major renovations — which included building an extension for wheelchair-accessible bathrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act — the family hopes to welcome patrons as soon as this winter.
“Listen, as soon as we can open, we’re going to open,” Joseph DiBernardo said.
He said the menu will feature burgers, pasta, fish and sandwiches, along with some firehouse favorites.
“We’ll have the five-alarm chili, we’re going to have some things named after the firehouse,” DiBernardo said. “This is Sound Beach not Southhampton — so we’re going to have food you won’t have to look up on Google.”
And after what DiBernardo described as a “huge” renovation with “a lot of obstacles,” opening day can’t come soon enough for the family.
“I loved every minute of being in the FDNY and I loved going to the firehouse,” DiBernardo said. “So we want The Firehouse to be a friendly place where everybody in Sound Beach loves to go.”
The elder Joseph DiBernardo outside the family’s new Firehouse Restaurant & Bar in Sound Beach, which they built in honor and tribute to their son, Joey DiBernardo, who was killed in the city’s Black Sunday fires of 2005. (Credit: Nick Esposito/GLI)