By Diana Colson
Fernando Piney has owned Dutch Valley Restaurant since 1999. He is now celebrating his 20th year as the head of this iconic Sarasota restaurant.
Located at 6721 S. Tamiami Trail, Dutch Valley began in 1972 as an Amish dining establishment. Today it is open 365 days a year from 7 am to 9 pm, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is available all day, and it offers American and Greek foods as well as a variety of desserts. New dishes are always being added, reflecting the culinary background of the chef as well as current tastes and health concerns.
For years, Dutch Valley has anchored our community by holding fundraisers for various charities as well as hosting quarterly blood drives. As an example of its innovative fundraising, in the week leading up to Saturday, June 1, Dutch Valley will be selling $1 raffle tickets with all proceeds going to Tidewell Hospice in memory of Renee Piney. Furthermore, for each raffle ticket sold, Dutch Valley will match that $1. To increase the contribution, on Saturday, June 1st, from noon to 8pm, three menu specials will be offered at 20% off. All proceeds from the sale of these specials will also be matched by Dutch Valley with the doubled proceeds going to Tidewell Hospice.
What a fabulous way for Dutch Valley to show support for the wonderful work done by Tidewell! Kudos to owner Fernando Piney for giving back so much to our community.
Fernando is an exceptional man who has led an extraordinary life. Born in Cuba, he immigrated to America 65 years ago—before the Cuban uprising. He worked first in a cigar factory in Kingston, NY, then became an American citizen. He then served in the Army where he spent three years in active duty and four years in reserve, emerging as Specialist 4.
He met his wife, Renee, at a wedding in Hyde Park, New York. Renee was of Greek ancestry and had experience in the restaurant business also. Together, Renee and Fernando operated the Springwood Inn in Hyde Park, a historic inn with a greenhouse located across the street from FDR’s famed hideaway.
The couple also owned a convenience store and a roller rink. Fernando’s young daughter Denise loved to skate. Hyde Park was a wonderful place to live, and they were very successful there: but the chill winds blew, and the tropics called. Finally, about 25 years ago, the couple sold their New York properties and moved to Sarasota where they bought a house. For the next four years they tried to retire but found themselves getting bored, very bored.
The hard-working couple decided to go back into action by buying a restaurant called Dutch Valley. The rest is history.
“Most of the credit for our success I give to my late wife, Renee,” says Fernando.
Some Dutch Valley clients are people who would spend holidays all by themselves. These people felt relaxed in the restaurant’s welcoming environment and would become friendly with their servers. Renee became a contact point for many distant relatives who worried about their loved ones being alone. “Did my Dad show up today?” a caller might ask.
Many snowbirds make Dutch Valley their first stop before checking in at their place of residence and confronting the horrors of an empty refrigerator.
Quality food and reasonable prices means return customers. The convenience of the hours that the restaurant is open allows them to accommodate working people who come in wearing uniforms or work clothes yet feel completely comfortable.
Says Fernando, “We are very lucky to have quality staff, many of whom have been with us the whole time. They are part of the success of this restaurant!”
Renee passed away almost five years ago. Fernando is now remarried to a lovely lady by the name of Judy Pirkey. His daughter, Denise, is Dutch Valley’s Assistant Manager, and his two surviving sons come often from faraway to visit.
Dutch Valley seats 150 people. It welcomes people of all ages, many of whom come to celebrate birthdays and anniversaries at the restaurant.
So…if you haven’t yet been there, you should go! Located slightly south of Stickney Point Bridge on 41, it’s a wonderful family place: cheerful, modestly priced, and famed for its fabulous Belgian Waffles!