Fred Norden is living proof that achieving one’s dreams can happen at any age.
Forty-three years ago he started out washing dishes, worked his way up to busing tables and serving food, became a trusted maître de at Mario Restaurant in Hauppauge and a beloved general manager at Drift 82.
And his journey doesn’t end there.
Norden is gearing up to launch his very own Italian restaurant called Mezza Luna this fall in the old Mario space where he worked for over a decade.
“My dream was having my own place,” Norden said. “I’m going to be 62 at the end of the month and my dream came true.”
From Old World to Contemporary
Mario Restaurant at 644 Vanderbilt Motor Parkway in Hauppauge was known for its Northern Italian flare and old-school, family-style menu.
Hailing from Rome, Italy, the previous owner, Mario, wanted to bring an authentic dining experience to Long Island.
“It always had that old-fashioned cuisine,” Norden said. “Cooking by the table, bone in the fish, duck flambé right by the table…and I noticed this style of cuisine has been going away.”
Norden said he saw the opportunity to continue these “old-school Italian” traditions and make them his own.
Mezza Luna, which translates to “half moon,” features a menu that combines conventional and contemporary cuisine, he said.
The menu features an extensive variety of pasta, seafood, meat dishes, and appetizers, as well as a quality wine selection.
The inside of the restaurant has been completely revamped, Norden said.
“I brightened up the lights, the walls, the old sign,” Norden said. “I put glass between the bar and the dining room … It had that old look, so we changed it.”
He said the space includes a private party room to host a variety of special occasions.
A dream come true
Norden said he feels fortunate enough to have built up a reputation after 10 years at Mario Restaurant.
“I won’t be a stranger to the neighborhood,” said Norden, who moved to the United States when he was 20. “I am stepping into a familiar territory.”
He said he hopes to inspire other young people to never give up on their dreams.
“I have a 15-year-old and when I told her I was opening my own restaurant, she said ‘Dad, I’m very proud of you,” Norden said. “My story is the American Dream.”
Continue to follow greaterlongisland.com for updates on Mezza Luna’s opening.
Feature photo: Stock image from Unsplash.