Dennis Turcinovic learned the in’s and outs of the hospitality industry at an early age. Inspired by his father’s passion and success as a restaurateur, Dennis spent each weekend from the time he was seven years old at his family’s restaurant, rolling up his sleeves wherever he was needed. Today, at age 36, Dennis is spearheading the expansion of the Delmonico’s dynasty as Owner and Managing Partner of Delmonico’s Restaurant Group. Over the years, Dennis sunk his teeth into all aspects of the restaurant business, working his way from the kitchen to the front of the house until finally being appointed General Manager of Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1998. A short time later in 2001, Dennis became Managing Partner of Delmonico’s and the driving force behind its renaissance, reestablishing the landmark restaurant’s prominence in the culinary arena and successfully evolving the iconic brand while preserving its historic roots.
Dennis manifested his vision for the Delmonico’s empire by creating Delmonico’s Restaurant Group in 2012. In addition to Delmonico’s flagship location in downtown Manhattan, the restaurant collection includes the newly-opened Delmonico’s Kitchen – a chic, Midtown eatery that offers a modern twist on Delmonico’s original menu.
How did you get into the Culinary industry?
I grew up in the business. My Dad started working in the restaurant industry at a very young age and I followed his lead. As a kid, I came into his restaurants and helped with odd jobs, cleaning and really learning all it takes to run a restaurant from the ground up.
Tell us about Delmonico's Restaurant Group. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
When Delmonico’s became available, we immediately jumped at the opportunity to carry on the legacy of this legendary institution. We plan on continuing this legacy by providing a unique culinary and historical experience for every guest.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to Delmonico's success?
Our business model has been fluid and continues to change based on industry trends, the economy, and feedback from our customers. We brought in a new chef and marketing director that really helped change the direction of Delmonico’s. We also introduced a less expensive dining option with lighter fare in our Grill Room that has been extremely popular. We have been aggressive with our outreach to our private dining customers resulting in excellent sales for our banquet and catering department. We have taken every opportunity to participate in PR related activities including the James Beard House and a recent partnering with Antoine’s from New Orleans, for example.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Obviously farm to table, bringing in more local and organic products, seasonal products. We are introducing New York State Beef on our new menu this season. It will be 100% Black Angus grass fed beef.
Your greatest success as Proprietor of Delmonico's? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
We have had many challenges at Delmonico’s due to our downtown location. We were greatly impacted by 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. It was a struggle but we persevered and ultimately came out on top. We had to change the way we did business and become more creative in our menu, sales techniques, and pricing. The one thing I learned is that if you have the right people in place you can overcome any challenge.
Your advice to an aspiring Restaurateur?
Follow your passion and don’t be afraid to step outside the box. If it’s meatballs, make the best meatball possible and sell the hell out of it.
Describe the ideal experience at Delmonico's.
Dining at Delmonico’s is the quintessential New York dining experience. You are transported back in time to the 1800’s when we started but you’ll also experience a modern take on the classics. Fresh Oysters, Delmonico Steak, Billy’s House-Cured Bacon, Delmonico’s Potatoes and of course Baked Alaska should be on everyone’s “must taste” list at Delmonico’s.
How important are architecture/design to the success of Delmonico's?
Delmonico’s has a unique location on the corner of Beaver Street, William and South William. It’s triangular in shape similar to the Flatiron building. The original pillars out front are rumored to be authentic from the ruins of Pompeii.
How do you motivate your employees?
We treat everyone here like family. It’s a very close-knit group who enjoy working together. Everyone motivates each other.
Health and well-being, as well as finding the right balance in life between business, family and self-improvement.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Delmonico’s Steak of course, and a great Cabernet!
Favorite travel destination?
Being Croatian, I love going back to visit family and friends there.
What's next for Delmonico's Restaurant Group?
We are constantly looking for new locations and concepts. Rent has become so astronomical in New York that we have to examine every opportunity very carefully. We have a couple really exciting things in the works right now so stay tuned!