First-time dad Chris Daniels with his daughter, Phoebe, in Peng’s Pizza Pies in Biddeford. Daniels named the restaurant after his late father. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Many fathers and sons bond over life’s fun stuff: movies, music, sports, outdoor adventures. And of course, food. We talked with restaurant and bar owners, food cart operators and chefs about how they honor their fathers through their businesses. Some of the sons work with their fathers, while others whose dads are no longer alive use work to help keep their memories alive.

Chris Daniels, Peng’s Pizza Pies, Biddeford 

Chris Daniels with his father, Bill “Peng” Daniels. Courtesy of Chris Daniels

Peng’s Pizza Pies chef-owner Chris Daniels considered other names before opening his pizzeria in downtown Biddeford last fall.

When Daniels conceived the restaurant in 2019, he thought about naming it Pizza Cornicione, or Pauli’s Pizza, after his mémé Pauline. “When my dad passed away, that’s when the name hit,” he said. “It was like, ‘OK, it’s going to be Peng’s.’ ”

Bill “Peng” Daniels, a former butcher at Shaw’s in Waterville, died in 2020 at 61.

“He was short, about 5-4, and he walked kind of with a waddle, so kids in middle school would call him ‘Penguin,’ or ‘Peng,’ and he just ran with it. All his friends called him Peng or Pengy. He had it on his license plate for years, as long as I can remember,” Daniels said, pointing up to a Maine “Peng” plate up on his restaurant’s wall.

As Daniels – who’d baked sourdough bread at Whole Foods and pizza at Belleville in Portland – started to consider opening a pizzeria of his own, he said he had his father’s full support. “He was all for it, as long as I’m happy and doing something I enjoy,” Daniels said. “He was my biggest cheerleader. He was always there to root me on.


“He wanted to learn new things,” Daniels added. “That’s a great quality, and definitely something I tried to learn from him. And that’s something I try to do here. I’m always working on things here, tinkering, always trying to improve.”

These days, Daniels is learning to be a father to his 3-month-old baby girl, Phoebe. One important lesson: New dads need more sleep.

Daniels closed Peng’s for two weeks when Phoebe was born. When he reopened, he was so sleep-deprived he accidentally sliced off the tip of his finger doing prep work.

“I was like, ‘That’s a sign I needed to take an extra week,’ ” he said.

Daniels wishes his dad were still around to see the pizzeria, and to consult for advice. “It can be challenging being a small-business owner, and not having him there to talk to, that’s difficult,” he said. Certain days are especially tough: his dad’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, Father’s Day.

But on other days, Peng’s reminds Daniels of his deep and lasting love for the man who raised him. He said customers ask about the name of his restaurant at least once a day. “It’s nice because it brings up memories of him,” he said. “He was a character, unapologetically himself.”


Greg, left, and Ryan Cormier hold a Chicago-style hot dog at their Cormier’s Dog House in Windham. “Hot dogs are his thing,” the father said about his son. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Ryan Cormier and father Greg, Cormier’s Dog House, Windham

“Ryan has always been a hot dog lover,” said Greg Cormier, sitting inside his son’s newly launched restaurant. “We would go on Saturdays to high school football games, and before the game, I would take him to the hot dog joints in central Maine. We’d go to Bolley’s (Famous Franks) or to Courtney’s Countertop in Winslow.”

The elder Cormier noted that even on a trip to Disney World, Ryan got more excited about the footlong hot dogs than the rides. “Hot dogs are his thing,” he said.

Greg Cormier had long entertained the notion of opening a hot dog stand himself, but he didn’t want to give up his career as Maine territory manager for Zampell, a contracting and facilities management company.

But his schedule was flexible, so when Ryan said he wanted to open a hot dog restaurant and raised the prospect last fall of attending Hot Dog University, a two-day informational program about the hot dog business held at Vienna Beef in Chicago, “I said, ‘You know what, I’ll go do it with you. Let’s do it together,’ ” Greg said. “And I loved it. It was fun.”

The Cormiers’ Hot Dog University diplomas now hang on the wall of the restaurant, which specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs: all-beef dogs on poppy seed buns topped with mustard, onion, tomato, relish, pickled sport peppers and a dill pickle spear, with celery salt sprinkled over the top.

Greg Cormier said he had some reservations at first about his son, a former FedEx delivery driver, opening a restaurant.


“I was a little worried,” Greg said. “The stats just aren’t real good for brand-new restaurants. The thing I knew he had going for him was this is a different type of restaurant. We knew (Route) 302 didn’t have anything like this. There are plenty of Chinese restaurants and sandwich shops, plenty of pubs. But there was nothing like this.”

Before leasing the space in Windham Shopping Center, the Cormiers staked out the center’s parking lot to do reconnaissance on traffic flow.

“Ryan and I spent hours out there in that parking lot,” Greg said. “I wanted to see what the foot and car traffic was like. I wanted to make sure we were in the right spot. I felt better once I saw how much traffic there was going to be here, and I felt even better when I met the owners of the building and they told us what the cost was going to be. We couldn’t beat this cost or this area.”

While Greg still works for Zampell, he makes time to help out at Cormier’s Dog House doing prep and small repairs most mornings from about 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. “I try to come earlier in the morning than (Ryan), open it and prep everything so when people get here, things are ready to go.”

On a recent weekday afternoon, Greg looked on proudly as Ryan chatted with customers at their tables. “The first few days this was open, I would tell him, ‘Ryan, just go out and find out how everybody is liking their food.’ It took probably two days, he’s been doing it ever since.”

In the past, the Cormiers bonded over sports and watching sporting events together. “If it’s racing, baseball, hockey, college football – that’s our thing,” Greg said. “That’s probably going to slow down a little bit this year.”


The restaurant is keeping them both busier than ever, but also allowing them to grow closer in new ways. “He teaches me stuff. I teach him stuff,” Greg said.  “We learn from each other. And I think that’s why it’s going so good.”

Greg and Ryan typically go golfing together on Father’s Day, but not this year, since Cormier’s Dog House is open seven days a week. “I’ll probably be here,” Greg said, addressing his son. “I’m bringing a putter and a green. I’ll kick your ass in putting.”

Ryan shook his head and smiled. “He’s never beaten me.”

Ian Daly, Jerome’s, Congress Street

When Ian Daly and his business partners, Sasha Salzberg and Evan Carroll, were brainstorming names last year for their forthcoming East End sports bar, they tried some skateboard or snowboard-themed names to hint at the venue’s niche focus on board sports.

Ian Daly with his father, Jerome, in 1994.

“But none of them really sounded right or were too corny,” Daly said. “We wanted to personalize the business as much as we could. My dad’s name was one of the names on the list, and we all agreed that it sounded good and put a lot of personal meaning behind the bar. It’s a simple name, and our bar is simple.”

Jerome’s, which opened in February, is filled with personal touches and homages to Jerome Daly, who died at 45 when Ian was just 13. There’s a photo behind the bar of Don Cherry, one of Jerome’s favorite Boston Bruins coaches. There are framed albums on the wall – including “Morrison Hotel” from The Doors and The Clash’s “London Calling” – taken from Jerome’s vast collection of vinyl LPs.


There’s also a Sugarloaf banner to commemorate the late Kingfield resident’s love of skiing. “He had me on skis when I was 4,” Daly said of his dad. “He loved being in the mountains and being outdoors.”

Jerome Daly battled Crohn’s disease most of his life. The last few years before he died, he was a stay-at-home dad. Ian Daly said he’s grateful he was able to spend so much time with his father before he died. “Even if it wasn’t a snow day, sometimes he would take me out of school if we got fresh snow and bring me up to Sugarloaf,” he recalled.

Daly said much of his dad’s influence comes through in the bar, like the sports theme in general. “He was a big New England sports fan,” Daly said. “He took me to my first Red Sox and Bruins games. He took me to see the Celtics play the Wizards when Michael Jordan was still on that team. The morals my dad taught me kind of come through here, too. Like, treat others the way you want to be treated, and everybody’s welcome.”

Centered behind the bar at Jerome’s is a stained glass Celtics logo that Daly’s father made, a hobby of his. It’s a conversation piece that often leads Ian into discussions with customers about his father.

“The stained glass always comes up, and his love for New England sports always comes up. I’m comfortable talking about it, and I share with customers who he was,” Daly said.

“I think people die twice,” he continued, choking up slightly. “First, when they actually pass, and then the last time their name is spoken. So the fact that his name is brought up every day is really cool.”


Sonny Villani and father Jay, Local 188

Ask Jay Villani what he thinks about his son, Sonny, working now as chef de cuisine at Villani’s 25-year-old Portland restaurant, the Spanish-influenced Local 188, and he seems to beam with pride, even as he downplays it.

“Something about apples and trees, unfortunately,” quipped Villani. “He’s pretty much running the show there right now. For a 22-year-old kid, the chops and the talent, I’m floored by it. I don’t want to tell him he saved his father’s business, but that’s the reality of it.”

In the post-COVID years, Villani said he was having a tough time adequately staffing Local 188. In 2022, Sonny was in his junior year at the University of Massachusetts, studying journalism and deeply unhappy.

“I told my parents, ‘There’s no way I’m coming back here next year,'” Sonny said.

So he left UMass and dove headlong into Local 188, where he started with office tasks, then worked the line, beginning with the garde manger (cold salad) station. Last fall, when Local’s head chef left, Sonny stepped up to fill the position.

“If people had asked me five years ago, ‘Is this what you’ll be doing?’ I would say, ‘You’re crazy,'” Sonny chuckled. “I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I sure didn’t see it coming.”


Still, Sonny working in hospitality makes a lot of sense. “I’ve had him in the kitchen since he was a baby,” said Jay, who also owns Salvage BBQ and Black Cow (which replaced another of his restaurants, Sonny’s – named for guess who? – in 2018). “I had him in a papoose while I was prepping at Local. He started washing dishes there around 12 or 13. I fired him once or twice around 15 or 16. By age 18, he was a powerhouse, and now all of a sudden he has a real palate and some chops. A lot of guys say they grew up in a kitchen, but he literally did.”

“Even though I didn’t have a lot of cooking experience, I trust my palate,” Sonny said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to eat at a lot of different places around the world. My dad has taken me to Spain a couple of times. We’ve been to the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. Even in the States, growing up with him wanting to explore different restaurants, I’ve had a lot of food experiences that others may not have.”

Until recently – when Jay was busy reopening Salvage after a six-month temporary closure — the Villanis worked together at Local 188 several times a week, including manning the line at Sunday brunch. “That’s always fun, too,” Sonny said. “It almost feels like the time we might have missed together when I was growing up. We’re getting it back now.”

“It’s really special to have this extra time with him,” said Jay. “And to watch him grow daily is really a treat for me. I know it’s not going to last forever, but it’s a wonderful feeling to see him spread his creative wings and really flourish in the role.”

Sonny said his dad never tried to lure him into a cooking career. “He’s never sugar-coated it. He’s always been like, ‘Are you sure this is what you want to do, kid?’ It’s brutal, a really tough career, but there are also a lot of really rewarding moments that come with it.

“If you asked him, gun to his head, he’d probably say he wished I did something different,” Sonny added. “But I like what I do. I found a nice groove and passion and happiness with this. And Local being open for 25 years in Portland is no joke. I take a lot of pride in carrying on that legacy.”


Peter Grebowski and his dad, Dave Grebowski, in 2015. The photo was taken outside North Cascades National Park in Washington state. Photo courtesy of Peter Grebowski

Peter Grebowski, Gunnar’s Icelandic Hot Dogs food cart

Peter Grebowski was inspired to launch his hot dog business this year after a trip to Iceland last fall. It was a vacation he had long planned to take with his father, David, but never got the chance.

“We always found ways to do something special and fun together once a year at least,” Grebowski said. “It could be as simple as a weekend trip up to Katahdin or Mount Washington. And one of the things on his list was for us to go to Iceland together, because he knew I had such an affinity for nature and mountains, everything Iceland has to offer. ”

But Grebowski’s dad got sick in late fall 2019, was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, and died in March 2020 at 56 years old. “It went from a stomach ache to a man who looked like he was 95 years old in four months,” Grebowski said. “The chemo just smoked him.”

The cancer constricted David Grebowski’s bowels, making eating almost impossible. He required a liquid diet through an IV feeding tube, even during the holidays, when his family normally feasted on traditional Polish and Italian foods.

“Not being able to eat any of that stuff when he wanted to have one last hurrah just added insult to injury,” Grebowski said.

A marketing professional for most of his career, David Grebowski left the corporate world several years before he died to run a kitchen and bath showroom with his wife, Laurie, in Nashua, New Hampshire. But he’d always had a yearning to open a casual restaurant, maybe a fried seafood shack.


“He’d come to my mom with these cool, fun ideas of restaurant-style businesses he thought he could open. But he never felt confident enough it would pay the bills for a family of four. The most it ever got to was conversations and napkin sketches,” Peter Grebowski said.

Grebowski said after his father died, his mother resolved to travel to Iceland with her son. “Because she knew how important and special of a trip it was going to be for me and my father,” he said.

They visited Iceland last October for eight days, which is how Grebowski discovered the country’s tradition of distinctive hot dogs. “I had no idea hot dogs were a thing there. Icelandic hot dogs made of lamb is like their everyday street food/gas station food. It’s what they’re known for.”

Grebowski wasn’t looking to start a food business at the time. But some weeks after the trip, he decided to launch a food cart selling Icelandic-style hot dogs to supplement his work in construction project management.

“My dad always told me to seize the day,” Grebowski said. “And he always wanted to do something like a food business, so I feel like I’m taking a page out of the book my dad was trying to write but never got to. I think he’d be so stoked for it. He’d be excited for me, trying to help, trying to find ways to partner with me.”

Grebowski’s menu features “Dave’s Hot Dog,” the cart’s only non-Icelandic item, as an homage to his dad. Dave’s dog is topped with a spread made from pureed beets, fresh horseradish, vinegar and sugar. It’s a traditional Polish condiment his father would always make at Christmastime, to be spread on little sandwiches made with dinner rolls and carved ham.

Grebowski plans to launch his cart this weekend on Commercial Street and in Congress Square Park. “There’s not a day that goes by when I don’t think about my dad one way or another,” he said. “I’m not a religious person, but I needed to find ways to carry him with me in some way, and this is definitely a way to keep him close.”

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