The Warwick Avenue restaurant, Nick and Joan’s Place, is celebrating 30 years of serving up delicious breakfast and lunch specials this weekend, offering all customers 30 percent off their tabs on Friday and Saturday.
“In 30 years, I’ve seen kids come in from the school when I first opened. Now they come in with their kids,” said owner Nick Degaitas.
That sense of tradition is part of what makes a visit to Nick and Joan’s so special. Every customer is greeted with a big hello and a smile from Nick at his spot in front of the grill, preparing eggs, omelets, pancakes and more, just how his customers like them, followed not long after by a similar greeting from Joan.
Most of the time, customers are also greeted by name; over 30 years, Nick and his wife Joan have acquired quite a following of regulars.
“The food is exceptional, but what’s even better is the companionship and the smiles,” said Jean Laliberte, a regular customer and family friend.
Laliberte’s daughter Michelle lived with Nick’s daughter Lori for a time, and the families became close.
“Now we’re great friends. I’ve met all the kids, the grandkids,” said Laliberte, who visits the restaurant from North Providence when he can for the “wonderful experience” with Nick, Joan and their kids.
Nick and Joan opened the restaurant at the Warwick Avenue location in Gateway Shopping Center on March 14, 1984, and with the exception of a few repairs, nothing has changed.
Nick has been in the restaurant business since he was a kid, working at his family’s place, John’s New York System on the corner of Cranston and Dexter streets in Providence.
“When my wife and I got married, we lived on top of the restaurant,” said Nick.
Then Nick and Joan moved to Warwick. Instead of commuting back and forth every day, Joan suggested her husband open a place of his own in Warwick.
They found the spot on Warwick Avenue, and the rest is history.
“When we opened this, we had $100 to our name. We went on faith,” said Joan. “We attribute our success to our faith.”
“The place is the same. We have new menu items but the interior is the same,” said Nick.
In the mornings, Nick is stationed at the grill while Joan cooks lunch specials in the back and is the waitress.
Breakfast is served all day, but Nick also has a tried and true recipe for hot wieners, too.
“I’ve got my father’s recipe for meat sauce,” he said.
But what really gets the regulars in the door is breakfast.
Nancy Mead and Dora Mazzone have been going to Nick and Joan’s every Tuesday for at least 27 years.
“You must know we like it. We’ve been coming here so long,” said Mead.
They explained there used to be a group of six who would make the weekly breakfast, but now it is just the two of them. They keep coming back for the great food, and the great service.
“We love Nick and his wife Joan,” said Mazzone.
“He [Nick] knows my daughters, and some of my grandchildren,” said Mead.
They even have a regular meal: Mazzone always has one egg with Italian toast, while Mead enjoys pancakes.
“And sometimes he makes them look like Mickey Mouse,” said Mead with a laugh.
Mark “Cupcake” Kuepker also gets the same thing every time he stops by Nick and Joan’s – ham and eggs.
“I’ve gotten the same thing since I can remember,” he said, adding that he has been having breakfast at the place since he was a little kid.
“What’s not to like,” said Kuepker, who lives near the restaurant. He even remembers skipping school to get breakfast from Nick. “If he retires, I’m gonna cry.”
Alex Parente has been visiting Nick’s since he was 7; he is now 24 and a student at Johnson & Wales University but still likes to visit the hometown spot.
“There’s not many places like this left in Rhode Island. Warwick being a metropolis, at least to us, there aren’t a lot of small places like this left,” said Parente. “Coming here gets us out of the city for a bit. Prices are great; food is great.”
“I’m really new here but it’s great; some of the best food I’ve had,” said Gabrial Mateen, who was dining with Parente.
Mike McGinn has been visiting Nick and Joan’s as often as he can for the past 15 to 20 years. He says the sign over the grill that reads “order what you want, eat what you get” is very true. “That sign, that’s true. I’ve ordered scrambled, gotten over-easy, ordered over-easy, gotten scrambled,” said McGinn.
But all kidding aside, McGinn thinks Nick and Joan’s is a great place.
“Nick has got the best ham in the state and it’s always fun to come here,” said McGinn, referring to the fresh cut ham Nick serves up every day. “It’s more than just a restaurant.”
That was exactly what Nick and Joan were hoping for when they started the place.
“We try to make people feel like they’re home, comfortable with family,” said Joan, adding that they like to think of it as the customers are just over for dinner. “I love hospitality. I enjoy the public.”
But it’s not just the public that makes this place what it is. In addition to Nick and Joan, at one point or another each of the four children spent time behind the counter.
In fact, about five years ago Nick had appendicitis, and his youngest daughters Michaela and Angela took over the place while he recovered, along with their mom.
Then last summer, when Nick was having hip problems, his wife officially left her other job as a pharmacy tech to work at the restaurant full-time and Angela returned again to help.
The Degaitas family is a large part of what makes Nick and Joan’s special. Nick and Joan have four children (Nick Jr., Lori, Michaela and Angela), and seven grandchildren (Alden, Michael Jr., Mariana, John Paul, Therese, Julia and Chiara) with one on the way: Angela is expecting her first son, Julian, in May. The family is also preparing for Michaela’s wedding later this spring.
The children, their spouses and their kids are also regulars at Nick and Joan’s.
“I’ve been in the business since I was born,” said Nick. “I like the public. I like to cook, the atmosphere, talking to people.”
So will Nick and Joan celebrate 60 years in business in March 2044?
“Why not? We’ll give 60 percent off then,” said Nick.