Dominick Puglisi took a long and varied path to realizing his life’s dream but when he made it a reality by opening an Italian restaurant, he met with unexpected, though not entirely unforeseeable, success.
A childhood in the kitchens of his Sicilian grandmother and mother left him with a love of food and a sense of how cooking and sharing a meal can create true bonds among people. But it was not until he and his wife had built what they thought would be their retirement house in Arizona that it would come together at last.
Mr. Puglisi opened the Italian Peasant in Tubac, Ariz., in July 2010, initially as a modest place to get real, New York-style pizza. In preparing for the opening, he had been tutored by Michael Mosolino, the owner of Deli Counter Fine Foods in Southampton, whom he knew from his time working as the service manager at Country Imports, a BMW dealer nearby, his wife, Kim D. Rocco Puglisi, said.
Quickly, the Italian Peasant gained a loyal following and demand grew. Mr. Puglisi was able to secure more space and added tables, serving both year-round residents and wintering people from the coasts. Ms. Puglisi attributed the restaurant’s success as much to the food, much of which was made from recipes passed on by his mother and grandmother, as to his outgoing and welcoming personality.
Mr. Puglisi died of multiple myeloma at his house on Blue Jay Way in East Hampton on Aug. 8. He was 59.
He was born in Brooklyn on July 11, 1955, to Alfred A. Puglisi and the former Clara Calutti. The family moved to Selden and then to Patchogue. He graduated from Patchogue-Medford High School.
Later, he went to trade school in Colorado before returning to Long Island to work as a mechanic at a service station. That job ended when an expansion project on the Sunrise Highway required the place to be bulldozed. He then ran his own service station in Islip.
During that period, he met and proposed to his future wife, who worked for a large bank. They moved east when she was assigned to a branch in Sag Harbor and married on May 17, 1987.
They bought their property in Tubac in the late 1990s, Ms. Puglisi said, and built the house in 2004. In the four years that he ran his restaurant, it grew to have 27 employees and about 80 seats. Staff members, some of whom flew east for his Aug. 13 funeral in Patchogue, now run it in his absence.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his brothers and sisters, Anthony Puglisi of Patchogue, Nancy Puglisi of North Miami Beach, James Puglisi of Fort Pierce, Fla., and Concetta Puglisi of Homestead, Fla., and many nieces and nephews.
He was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.