For better, for worse. In sickness, in health – and in business.
At least, that should have been the wedding vows for Mahopac residents Dana and Thomas Palumbo. Both chefs by trade, the couple is bringing great food in a casual dining atmosphere with the opening of their new eatery, Dana’s Diner, in Mahopac.
Dana Palumbo, 37, has always loved to cook. The Mahopac native hails from a big Italian family who gathered, laughed and connected through cooking in the kitchen. With each passing year in her house, she gained greater responsibility in the kitchen.
“Being in the kitchen was second nature,” Palumbo said. “The older I was, the more I got to do.”
But her passion did not instantly lead to her career as a chef. Instead, at 30, after working in the architectural design industry, Palumbo decided to return to school to pursue her dream of cooking.
She attended the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and worked at Maialino’s in Gramercy Park under the tutelage of restaurateur Danny Meyer after graduation. She built an impressive resume, cooking for the likes of Iron Chef Michael Symon, the Organic Pharmer and Purdy’s Farmer & the Fish in North Salem.
The pandemic in 2020 saw Palumbo at home, like most of the world. Turns out being in her hometown was right where she needed to be. One day Palumbo was driving and saw a “For Rent” sign in she and her husband’s favorite breakfast spot in town. They immediately. Called the landlords.
Since last year, they have been getting the diner in shape for this week’s opening. From the signage to the refrigeration and everything in between, the two chefs-turned-business owners transformed the establishment’s interior to make it their own – including paying homage to communities in Westchester and Putnam.
One of the walls in Dana’s Diner is a “Featured Artist” wall, which includes pictures from local artists. Palumbo plans to display work from a new artist every month, hoping to attract talent from the neighborhood. Currently featured is Megan Dorazio of Port Chester. She is credited for taking all of the photos on the website and social media for Dana’s Diner.
Palumbo’s eatery allows her total freedom in the kitchen, and she and Thomas have worked tirelessly in the research and development of the diner’s menu.
“Every morning my husband and I wake up, we come to the kitchen and cook food together,” Palumbo said. “That’s the most amazing part of all of this. Bouncing ideas back and forth between the two of us. It’s a menu with a little bit for everybody. It’s been exciting; it’s been fun. We got back and forth a lot about whose version of a dish is better. It’s so fun.”
The menu will feature foods to tantalize all appetites. She has something to please every palate, from fresh salads to signature dishes like chicken and zucchini bread waffles with hot honey and some pretty amazing burgers.
“It’s a nice neighborhood restaurant,” Palumbo said. “It’s nothing fancy; it’s nothing pretentious. It’s just good food. A nice and casual family setting.”
Thomas will run the kitchen. While he executes flavorful dishes, Palumbo will be working the front of house, greeting guests with a big smile and warm energy. Sometimes, the Palumbos will have their seven-month-old son in-shop as well. He was a large part of why the couple wanted to open a diner.
“It’s really hard when you’re chefs to be able to see your kids grow up because you usually work nights and weekends,” Palumbo said.
Now, the husband-and-wife team will be able to have ample family time.
“We’ll get to watch him get off the bus and watch him grow up as he gets older,” she said
Dana’s Diner is set to open on Wednesday, serving breakfast, lunch and a touch of family love from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.
“I come into the diner now, and I just look around and I’m so impressed,” Palumbo said. I’m so grateful for the help my husband has given me. I’m so grateful for everything my family has done for me over the years.”
Dana’s Diner is located at 565 Route 6 in Mahopac. For more information, visit www.danasdinermahopac.com.
An earlier version of this article listed an incorrect address. We regret the error.