About Owner of The Belvedere Club, Maria Buonsante
Born Maria Demonte in Moli di Bari, Italy, Maria immigrated to this country with her mother and father and four siblings in 1962. Upon graduating from Bay Ridge High School, Maria went to work for the international branch communication division of Chemical Bank where she met and married Nicholas Buonsante.
Together they embarked on an entrepreneurial career in several food and beverage businesses. Maria has a long history of restaurant experience, with long stints as manager and co-owner of Café Del Mondo and Bocelli. Time-tested, Maria has exhibited a lifelong commitment of time, energy and dollars that continues to this day and will for many years to come.
About Chef of The Belvedere Club, Chef Gianfranco Franzese
Chef Gianfranco Franzese was born in Italy on November, 18 1968. He graduated with a degree in Culinary Arts from Istituto Profesionale Alberchiero in Bari, Italy in 1987. After working in various establishments such as restaurants, hotels, and pastry shops, he decided, at age 21, to expand his experience abroad and decided to come to the United States of America. Here, he has managed various restaurants such as Villa Portofino, Cafe Del Mondo, Excelsior Grand Caterers, Bocelli and Chanti Restaurant as Executive Chef.
In 1997, he became a certified Executive Chef through the American Culinary Federation. Two years later, Chef Franzese was invited as guest chef for the James Beard Foundation, where he cooked for the directors of the James Beard House.
In 1995 he started competing in international and national food shows in both hot and cold food, in which he earned over 40 different awards in medals, trophies and cash prizes. Some honors include:
- 2000 Gold Medal, Culinary Olympics, Efurt, Germany with the New York Culinary team
- 2001 Gold Medal in various competitions in NY, NJ, PA; 2002
- 2002 Winner of Cup of Nations, Quebec, Canada & Bronze medals for individual display with the Big Apple Culinary Team
- 2003, Chef Guest for La Cucina Magazine and Cooking And Living Magazine with live cooking demo
- 2004, Awarded 'Best Italian Restaurant on Staten Island' with Bocelli Restaurant 4 stars
- 2004, Chef Franzese created and acted as Captain of Staten Island Culinary Team. With the help of local businesses such as Colavita, Manfredi Auto Group, The New York Restaurant School and local community fund raiser was able to bring a group of chefs to one of the most important competitions in Milan, Italy, where the team won 9 Gold medals. 1st place trophy for Hot Food Nationally & 2nd place trophy overall internationally.
- 2005, Chef Franzese was awarded "Chef Of The Year" from A.C.F. for the New York Area. This award recognizes an outstanding chef that works full time service facility and demonstrates the highest standards in culinary arts.
- In 2008, Chef Franzese opened his first restaurant "Bruno Restaurant and Bakery". And for the next decade was awarded for 5 consecutive "Best Brunch on the Island" and "Best Italian Eatery". Also received the "Louis R. Miller" Business Leadership Award
- In 2012 Chef Franzese was the winner of the Food Network TV show "Chopped" (season 13/episode 1)
- In 2013 Chef Franzese was invited to be part of a team of chefs that helped for the album release "Artpop" for Lady Gaga, and was Guest Chef for "V.I.P. Pass" Entertainment New York
Follow Chef Franzese on Instagram @Chef.Franco.Franzese