Anyone who has owned more than 20 restaurants over a five-decade period throughout the Hudson Valley has some stories to tell.
Such is the case for Frank Guido. The lifelong Hudson Valley restaurateur shares plenty in his new book. Been There, Done That: A Memoir of Food, Family and Friends, pit out by Rhinebeck-based Monkfish Book Publishing, was released earlier this month.
The book chronicles local history through the viewpoint of East Kingston-born Guido, who has owned and operated more than 20 area restaurants, mainly specializing in seafood and Italian cuisine.
The 72-year-old Guido continues to run Frank Guido’s Port of Call in Catskill. His son, Mark, operates Frank Guido’s Little Italy in Midtown Kingston and cousin, Sal, oversees Mariner’s Harbor at the foot of Broadway.
Guido said while he initially set out to write a cookbook, he quickly realized he had enough material to take it a step further.
“Originally, it was going to be a combination cookbook with some essays, but then it grew into my telling stories about growing up in East Kingston with my Italian background and all of the people that I’ve worked with and all of the friendships I’ve made running my restaurants. It really is more about them than me,” he said.
Guido has included more than 500 photos in the book.
Many include state and local dignitaries as well as celebrities and prize athletes, but a good number focus on his neighbors, friends, patrons and employees.
“We’ve met with governors and mayors and celebrities, but what’s most important to me is the generations of customers — many of them fourth and fifth-generations — that I’ve actually had the privilege of knowing and befriending,” Guido said.
“I’m more proud of my friendships with the local people than meeting with George Steinbrenner, Yogi Berra, Frank Sinatra, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci or Michael J. Fox. That’s much more important to me.”
Guido tells his stories in a folksy and unpretentious way. Included are plenty of anecdotes about growing up in a family-centric Italian household, the value of hard work and tradition and the rewards and trials he has encountered along the way.
Over the years, Guido’s establishments — spanning Red Hook to Highland — have been recognized for their high-quality food and impeccable service. The original Mariner’s Harbor in Highland ranked in the top 500 restaurants in the United States during its heyday in the ‘90s.
Guido devotes an entire chapter to Mariner’s and all the celebrities who dined there, including Sinatra, who doled out $50 bills to an adoring staff.
Guido, who expects to hold a book-signing party in the coming weeks, said he hopes readers walk away with a couple of main thoughts.
“No. 1, you’re only as good as the people who work with you, and No. 2, I was very fortunate with my family to have grown up in East Kingston. They were honorable, industrious people who set the example of loyalty and hard work. I hope I can set the example that they set for me. The Guido tradition with Mark and Sal is going to continue, and they’ll make it even bigger and better,” he said.