This is the unabridged interview I did with Big Nick, back in 2012.
When did you first get into the restaurant business? 51 years ago. First place 76 and Broadway. It was a diner, open 24 hrs a day. I was working there, then after that I came to big Nicks. After that I opened another restaurant I was working in the day time at the restaurants and going to school at night. I got a hotel restaurant management degree at NYC College in BKLYN.
How many people have come today? I have no idea. I am lost. There was a two block line, from 11 oclock in the morning until now.
Are you tired? I’m not that tired. I never get tired when I talk about restaurants, you know? It’s part of my life. That’s why I succeeded so far for so many years. I’m never tired of it. It’s in my blood after all these years. It’s the proof in the pudding that I’ve been open for so long and I’ve studied this kind of work, too. I started from zero. I started as a dish washer, you know? I’ve run this business for fifty years and I’ve never compromised quality with quantity. The main thing is to keep people happy, you know?
What is your favorite thing on the menu? Hambuger. My menu is endless, it never ends. It is an Italian place, a Greek place, an American place, an international place. It’s one of the biggest menus in New York City. We cater to all different kinds of people. It’s a destination, not just for people in the neighborhood. They read about it in all different magazines. Tourists, they come over here with their books. We have all different kinds of hamburgers for all different kinds of people. Different strokes for different folks. I like the bacon cheese-burger myself. We have breakfast, we have late snacks, we are open twenty four hours a day. We don’t even have a key for the door. We were here during a bad time on the West side, when the west side was a jungle all around. They used to throw people out of hotel windows—the pimps they used to throw the girls out of the windows. 72nd street was a needle park, with all kinds of junkies. I came from the other side without speaking one word of English. I started out as a dishwasher and because I was dedicated I succeeded.
What do you like about the Upper West Side? The Upper West Side is great because the neighborhood is not like the East side. The East side is cold. The West Side is always more warm. You see more small businesses that have been around
Why have 1962 prices? I wanted to return a favor to the people who came to my place for so many years. I wanted to use this day to say thank you to them.