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Franco G. Purita dead; Prolific Long Island chef and restaurateur was 53

Frank Purita, owner of D'Latte Cafe in Greenport,

Frank Purita, owner of D'Latte Cafe in Greenport, in a 2012 photo of him at the eatery. Purita has died at age 53.  Credit: Newsday/Doug Young

Franco G. Purita, the owner of D'latte Cafe in Greenport and a prolific Long Island restaurateur, has died at 53 after a monthslong battle with cancer, according to his daughter, Gabriella Purita.

Purita, who was widely known as Frank, was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in December and passed away Tuesday morning, she added. "It escalated at a much quicker pace than we were anticipating," Gabriella Purita said.

Purita was one of three noted Long Island chefs who died in the last two months, including Michael Maroni, 57, of Maroni Cuisine in Northport and Phil Pasfield, 34, of The Brixton in Babylon. 

Purita moved to Levittown from Calabria at age 9 and finished high school in Baldwin. His fingerprints are all over the food and drinks scene on Long Island, stretching back to the early 1990s. Partnered with his wife, Claudia Purita, he ran Veritage and Paradiso in Rockville Centre; La Serenata in Dix Hills and Oceanside; Radici in Carle Place, Cafe Mediterranean in Mattituck; Garden Gourmet Catering in Southhold; and Sasuke and Biere in Greenport.

Father and daughter collaborated on producing spirits at Greenport Distilling, and he worked alongside his other daughter, Maria Purita, at D'latte Cafe in Greenport. There, Maria Purita baked pastries and Frank Purita used local produce (such as goat milk, berries and peaches) and his own imagination to produce gelato whose flavors followed the seasons. "He was always hatching a brilliant idea," said Gabriella Purita. "He was a charismatic force and very much a perfectionist. His whole life was making people happy with food and wine."

In 2018, Purita (also a musician) opened The Half Note, a seasonal jazz cafe in Greenport, and "we are planning to reopen" for the summer, Gabriella Purita said.

Purita is survived by his wife, Claudia Purita (who founded and owns One Woman Vineyards in Southhold), and his two daughters, Gabriella and Maria Purita.

Visiting at De Friest-Grattan Funeral Home in Southhold will be on Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Agnes Church in Greenport. Burial will follow at Saint Agnes Roman Catholic Cemetery in Greenport.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made to cancer research. 

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