Been There, Done That

Anyone who has owned more than 20 restaurants over a five-decade period throughout the Hudson Valley probably has some stories to tell, and they’re bound to be juicy and tender-hearted.

Such is the case for Frank Guido. The lifelong Hudson Valley restaurateur shares plenty of gems in his new book, Been There, Done That: A Memoir of Food, Family and Friends.

The book chronicles local history through the unique lens of the 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.

The book features more than 500 photos. 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 Pesce or Michael J. Fox. That’s much more important to me.”

The book is largely upbeat and filled with themes of gratitude to those who have made his restaurants successful.

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.

One of the strongest testimonials in the book comes from New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who was among many dignitaries over the years to fete Guido for his contributions to the local culinary scene.

He noted that Guido had singlehandedly operated more restaurants than anyone on the East Coast and that the family had “created a brand for waterfront dining that has been copied but never rivaled by others up and down the Hudson River.”

The author 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.

The book is available for purchase for $25 in any of the Guido Family Restaurants.