Casandra Properties CEO and Host James Prendamano and Co-host Rebecca Matulonis interview a local but humble hero, chef, and Staten Island business owner, John Djombalic of Dolce Fantasia. He co-owns the restaurant with his wife Bruna. Currently located on Staten Island’s north shore (Forest Avenue near Eggers), they are opening up a second location in South Shore Commons here on the Island’s south shore on Veterans Road West.
In speaking with James and Rebecca, John Djombalic is kind and humble. He came to Staten Island with his wife Bruna in 1988. He speaks highly of his wife, with whom he owns the Dolce Fantasia brand, which originated in Cugno, Torino, where his wife’s family is from. As a young boy, John also lived and worked between two cultures. John is of Montenegrin and Croatian descent – and traveled to Bari each day – a 90 minute boat ride – to work in restaurants as a kid. Both cooking and hard work is in his blood and part of his DNA.
John’s cooking is based on Italian fare but with notes of French cuisine, he says. The theme of the menu, he says, is more of a restaurant than a bakery – and panini are by far their biggest sellers. However, these aren’t you’re ordinary panini – we’re talking lobster panini, truffle sauce, in addition to fresh pastas cooked to a perfect al dente of course.
You must eat all your pasta al dente, he insists. It doesn’t convert to sugar that way. In fact, John Djombalic lost 40 pounds in the last year by this method, he says. But he also laughs that he had to trade in the bread for the pasta. It’s too much carbohydrates, then. James asks him to explain the difference between his homemade pasta and boxed pasta. “Dried pasta in a box can stay like that for seven years. You can bring it into the bunker with you,” John laughs.
What is incredible about his restaurant and their delicious panini and desserts – is they do so without salt or sugar. He adds that 75% of his desserts are gluten free. John’s father passed away when he was just a boy due to high blood pressure. As a result, sodium is not added to his food.
Dolce Fantasia is located on Forest Avenue, near the Eggers plaza on the North Shore of Staten Island. If you haven’t already discovered them, please visit or order from one of their two locations. One will open up on the South Shore of Staten Island in South Shore Commons – near a new indoor simulation golf concept and a spa. John Djombalic is not only a superior chef, he is a local hero and exemplary individual. Both his food and his character can be reflected in his online ratings – 4.9/5 stars.
John is a Hero who Saved Three Lives During Hurricane Sandy
It was all a blur, and it happened so fast, note both Prendamano and Djombalic. The ocean was literally on Hylan Boulevard. I had two injured hips at the time, trying to swim in 15 feet of water, says John Djombalic. But it was autopilot mode fore me, he explains. As part of the auxiliary police, he saved three people from drowning during Hurricane Sandy – two children and an elderly woman. A total of 23 people died that on Staten Island that day, an grievous tragedy. However, people like John Djomabalic, Sal Criscuolo, Cory Schifter – and our own James Prendamano did their parts – along with so many other local businesses who pitched in. Staten Islanders indeed help each other out in times of need.
Business Matters During a Pandemic
We are in the midst of a crisis here – or on our way out of one – and you’re opening up another business here on Staten Island right now? ask James Prendamano. John Djomablic replies because you only live once. He goes on to say to Prendamano – “To make money is good. But at the end of the day, it’s good to share the wealth.” John Djombalic certainly has shared the wealth, giving back to the community he serves, not unlike our CEO of Casandra Properties James Prendamano. During the height of the pandemic, with far fewer customers at Dolce Fantasia, John continued to do what he loves – he cooked! He cooked from day to night and sent trays of food over to nursing homes, group homes, hospitals, and they fire police department.
The Need To Help Others
Last year alone I called 911 at least 48 times, John Djombalic tells James Prendamano. I can’t see something and not do anything about it. Rule one – Regardless of who you are, I have to stop and help you. At that point, James Prendamano asks John Djombalic if he has any military background.
“Yes,” says Djmobalic. “I went to military school when I was a child, where I was taught discipline.”
One thing is for sure, and Rebecca Matulonis and James Prendamano both agree -- we need more people like John Djmobalic in the world, and it’s comforting to know he is here with us on Staten Island. Not only does he offer delicious panini and desserts – now on both sides of Staten Island, he is also a selfless hero who serves the community he loves so much that he gives back ten-fold.
James Prendamano talks about the opposite of folks like John Djmobalic, those who fall into the ‘Me-Me-Me’ category. James Prendamano relates a story of a an extremely rude customer at a Starbucks the other day. Haven’t we learned anything from Covid? James Prendamano asks. We certainly should have. We’re only here for a certain period of time. We should all be kinder to each other – exercise more patience. Life is too short and too precious. Have we learned that, if nothing else – he asks?
It is people like John Djombalic to whom we are grateful. We appreciate his belief in Staten Island, and his appreciation of life. His positivity allows for his business to get stellar reviews. 4.9/5 ratings!
John makes it known that he is also thankful to the Staten Islanders have welcomed him and his restaurants.
Casandra Properties is honored to have had the opportunity to speak with this true hero, John Djombalic of Dolce Fantasia.