Cousin Vinnie’s New Owner
Cousin Vinnie’s new owner shares his thoughts on becoming a restaurant owner.
Football season signals the return of a beloved tradition: tailgating. With every kickoff comes the thrill of sharing and discovering mouthwatering tailgate recipes. Whether you’re a seasoned tailgate chef or just diving into the game-day scene, there’s always a new dish waiting to score a touchdown with friends and family.
And who better to usher in tailgate festivities than Sam Dapena, the new owner of Leesburg’s famous wing joint, Cousin Vinnie’s Family Sports Restaurant. “Life is about family, friends and fun, and what better way to bring them all together than football and your favorite tailgating foods?” Sam says. “Wings, dips and chips is the way to go. As the owner of Cousin Vinnie’s, creating new, delicious tasting food is my favorite thing to do, along with football season of course. Cold beer, great food and great friends is what tailgating is all about.”
About the restaurant
Sam took over Cousin Vinnie’s in 2021 after a 14-year run by original owner Vinnie Vittoria. The two were actually shooting the breeze one day when Sam jokingly offered to run the restaurant. Vinnie decided it wasn’t a half-bad idea and decided to retire, but not before passing on the family secrets that make this restaurant so popular. Originally a cruise ship remodeler, Sam had to pivot careers due to the Covid pandemic. “My family worked on remodeling cruise ships, and naturally, I joined in,” Sam says. “We’d work almost around the clock, every day. With the business taking a hit due to Covid, I’d been on the lookout for other work.” Cousin Vinnie’s was the perfect fit. Sam had never run a restaurant before, so Vinnie took him under his wings — no pun intended — before throwing Sam in headfirst. “Pretty much everything is the same,” Sam says. “All the same recipes and great flavors that we are known for.” That’s not to say there haven’t been any tweaks. Sam introduced a few new items and also brought a personal touch with his favorite jalapeño ranch dipping sauce, among other specialties. His philosophy is clear: “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” Did we mention that Cousin Vinnie’s was voted Best of the Best (in the annual Style Magazine poll) for wings and sports bar? The restaurant is a paradise for sports enthusiasts, showcasing multiple televisions broadcasting various sports, from college football to The Masters.
On the menu
The menu teems with mouthwatering offerings like chicken wings, sausage and cheese fire balls, beer battered onion rings, fried green beans, Cousin Vinnie’s Secret Shrimp, and widely popular garlic parmesan fries. Add in subs, burgers and salads, and there’s something for everyone. Aside from their famous wings, the Killer Hamburgers are, well . . . killer. All burgers are freshly made with 80/20 blended patties. Popular options include the Alpine Burger, loaded with sautéed mushrooms and onions, and the ever-popular BBQ Burger.
For a twist, try deep-fried hot dogs, a flavor burst that has been showcased on the Food Channel.
There’s also the spicy buffalo chicken sub and the chicken parmesan sandwich. No meal is complete without dessert, and Cousin Vinnie’s doesn’t disappoint. Options range from fairground-inspired funnel cake fries to rich delights like the Peanut Butter Explosion, Pineapple Coconut Surprise and classic red velvet cake.
No copyright intended. Original Article appeared in Lake-Sumter Style Magazine September 2023