Armed with grandma's ragu, chef realizes American Dream

July 2, 2012 at 11:18 AM ET

When Frank Prisinzano was growing up in Queens, New York, he lived and breathed his Italian-American heritage — not least of which was the traditional Italian food his immigrant grandmothers prepared: rigatoni ragu, linguine with clams, mozzarella and tomatoes, red sauce with addictive depth of flavor.

He tells stories of the card nights his grandpa hosted, in which the neighbors would gather under the pretense of playing cards, but with the underlying motivation of eating the feast his grandmother, Carmella Panella, a native of Naples, had prepared.

Prisinzano’s childhood, rich in culinary tradition, is just the beginning of what would become a booming career as a restaurateur — he is now indisputably a reigning king of lower Manhattan’s food world.

These videos (above, and continued below) trace his evolution from the opening of his first restaurant, FRANK, in 1998. Along the way they spotlight his unique ability to foster community through his establishments and, finally, chronicle his entrepreneurial expansion, epitomized by his creation of East Village Radio and his newest venture, Sauce.