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O’Neills For Italian food? In Sicily?

Each night we would stop in for a Grappa nightcap and Antonio was there to greet us with a smile. (Courtesy Photo)

You may have clicked on Hamptons or North Fork real estate or Googled swimming pools to find this article. You'll have to be patient; I'll get to the point (eventually).

A few years ago my wife and I have a wonderful honeymoon in Europe. During our time in Italy, MaryAnn and I had our minds on many wonderful things; however food and fine wine were (nearly) constant indulgences. We arrived in Sicily and doubted that the food could match our triumphant wine paired dinner of a few days earlier in Florence. We were wrong.

Our favorite Sicilian joint with an Irish name was O'Neills. The owner, Antonio, treated us like family. Once we mentioned that our grandfathers each had roots in Sicily, I think we officially became part of his extended family. Our hotel in Giardini Naxos was directly across the street from O'Neills. Each morning we would see Antonio sweeping the sidewalk as we strolled down Via Jannuzzo. Late each night we would stop in for a Grappa nightcap and Antonio was there to greet us with a smile.

Antonio knows, as do many of us, when you own a service business, you work hard. You oversee everything. You delegate some things, but not everything. In many ways, you are the product. During the course of my thirty years in the luxury landscape industry, the most successful individuals I have known have worked hard, worked smart, and take pride in what they do. The industry has changed and web sites, e mail, and texts have made things less personal; but the best of the best still give of themselves. Their presence on the job site, a kind word or two at the right time, and going beyond what is required, are the trademarks of extraordinary service.

Back in the States clients deserve and receive the same commitment that Antonio brings to O'Neills. (Photo: CP Complete, Stacy Wickham Photography)

The economy of a couple of years ago humbled many people and reminded the entire service industry of our roots. I've noticed that more clients are greeted with a genuine smile and heartfelt appreciation than when things came easily. You are more likely to see a quality contractor on site paying attention to the details than a few years ago.

I've had the privilege of meeting many of the most financially successful people in the world. The fruits of their labor, education, hard work, intelligence, and good fortune allow our clients to afford extraordinary second homes and incredible backyards. They appreciate quality and expect the type of attitude that Antonio brings to O'Neills. There are parallels in every type of business. I try to remember that each day and find the best in myself and what others have to offer.

You may be wondering, however unlikely, if Antonio's last name is O'Neill. It is not. Many years ago, Antonio's best friend was a fellow named O'Neill from Dublin. Antonio promised Mr. O'Neill that one day an older and wiser Antonio would return to Sicily and open his own restaurant. When he did, he named it after his Irish pal. Loyalty, determination, hard work, combined with the luck of the Irish resulted in a very special trattoria.

Buona sera signorina, kiss me goodnight.

Chris Hall began his career in the swimming pool industry over 30 years ago. He is currently a consultant to Casual Water, the premiere swimming pool construction and service company on Long Island. www.casualwater.com

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