Restaurant Has New Owners, New Name, Same Approach
by Denise Sullivan
HURLEYVILLE, May 2022 — Casa Mia, formerly Frankie and Johnny’s, is the new, not so different version of the iconic Italian restaurant that so many knew and loved for decades. Owners Margarito Balcazar and Antonio Mariaca officially opened with the Casa Mia name on September 13, 2021, in the very same location on Main Street in Hurleyville, with the entrance on the corner of Main and Mongaup Road. Most of the beloved and delicious menu items remain, with some welcome new additions that cater to hungry diners of all ages.
Under the supervision of John and Frank Nardi, Margarito grew up in the eatery’s kitchen, starting as a young dishwasher from Mexico, where his parents still live. He first acquired pizza-making skills in that kitchen, and gradually learned how to make most everything on the menu with mentoring from Frank and his cousin Anthony of El Monaco’s in White Lake, another iconic Sullivan County restaurant from the past. Margarito’s wife Angelica and 2 younger brothers, who also work at Casa Mia, have been part of the restaurant staff for years, and they all have helped with the transition to new ownership.
Co-owner Antonio Mariaca, Margarito’s friend, joined the restaurant team after working as a “pizza man” in NYC for 16 years, and then as a cook at Sorella in White Lake for 8 months. His wife Luz Mariaca completes the group of new staff / owners with lots of restaurant experience. And everyone knows Janice, who returned as a waitress and who watched Margarito grow up in the kitchen.
Margarito says that he took on the new role of co-owner because he grew to know the business and customer preferences over the years, and he loves living in Hurleyville. Offering the same traditional food with a few new ideas is the eatery’s plan. New menu items include stromboli, calzones (delicious!) and pizza by the slice, all on both the dinner menu and the newly expanded lunch menu. Sicilian pizza pies and a few new regular pizzas round out the new dishes. Personally, I can’t wait to try the new square –shaped Grandma Pie, made with fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
Margarito and Antonio know that Catskills summers are busy, and they’re hopeful that pre-pandemic crowds will return with warm weather. Antonio says they would like to add more new menu items eventually, but for now, why change what is already so good?
What is also so good is the role that Casa Mia will continue to play in the community, just like Frankie and Johnny’s. They will help local schools and the college by accepting purchase orders for large food orders, delivering those meals when they can. Large dinner orders from local prison staff continue to be filled, and when a community member asks for a donation of food or a gift certificate for a fundraiser or a contest, Casa Mia will always oblige.
And, because some things never change, Johnny Nardi, now in his 90s, still comes in every morning to help start the cooking, and he still works the garden outside the restaurant. Mary Nardi still makes the beloved house dressing, and son Frank is a phone call away if they need anything.
Casa Mia is open every day except Tuesday for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Summer weekend hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.