Manhasset mourns Dali “Donald” Bekteshi, Villa Milano co-owner

Manhasset mourns Dali “Donald” Bekteshi, Villa Milano co-owner
Photos of Dali "Donald" Bekteshi lined poster boards as hundreds wrote in a guest book to remember a man who left his mark on the community of Manhasset. (Photo by Karina Kovac)

The streets of Manhasset were filled with somber hearts  Aug. 17 as a whole block was sectioned off from restaurant Villa Milano to Mary Jane Davis Green Park to remember the life of Dali “Donald” Bekteshi, the co-owner of Villa Milano.

The memorial event drew hundreds of mourners, including family, friends, and patrons, all gathering to pay their respects to a man who left his mark on the community he held dear.

He was born on March 1, 1958, and died Aug. 12 at 65 after a battle with cancer.

Before establishing Villa Milano in 1984, he and his brothers operated various family-owned restaurants across Long Island. Predating that, the Bekteshi family had managed seven restaurants in Italy. Donald Bekteshi studied and honed his skills at the Culinary Institute of America.

Donald’s son, Danny Bekteshi, said his father would have loved to see everyone who came out to remember his legacy.

“He was a part of the community,” he said, “It’s going to rain tonight, he’s going to be crying in heaven. I just want to say thank you to everybody who showed up.”

Danny Bekteshi described his father as a “kind, sweet, gentle man” who “loved the community as much as he loved his family. He made everyone feel warm and welcome and he didn’t look at anybody as customers, he looked at everybody as family.”

Donald’s brother, John Bekteshi, said of all his brothers, Donald was the best. “He was the baby brother,” he said, “and what he did, he took care of his family and then he reached out and helped everybody, he had a heart of gold.”

John Bekteshi said originally Donald was going to aeronautics school in pursuit of a pilot’s dream. However, his true calling lay in fostering connections and aiding those around him.

“He loved people, that was his biggest joy,” he said.

Peter Rosenblum, a loyal patron who considers himself family, reminisced about Donald Bekteshi’s exceptional character, calling him an icon and hero to Manhasset.

“Everybody loved him, he was just one of those guys,” Rosenblum said. He described Donald as hardworking, kind, and compassionate.

He added, “He was a superior person, just mom-and-pop family business, they don’t make people like Donnie anymore…he was loved.”

Donald Bekteshi’s impact was not confined to his restaurant’s walls. His generosity extended his gifts to the local fire departments, as attested by Richard Weigele, former captain of Company 1 Manhasset-Lakeville Volunteer Fire Department.

“Often and at the spur of the moment, late at night as he’s closing, he would always help out,” Weigele recounted. “And we’re going to miss him, but we’ll remember him forever.”

Weigele described the food as “hot, delicious, fresh, you can never have one slice, you always have to have two. Homemade, obviously.”

Up at the podium, Jack Caruso shared his account of finding a friend in Donald Bekteshi 12 years ago and how his life was forever touched by Donald’s kindness.

Caruso recalled their initial encounter at Villa Milano, a chance interaction that started after Caruso spotted Villa Milano and wanted to ease his feelings of frustration with the Town of North Hempstead Building Department while working through the permit phase.

“You look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders,” Donald said to him after asking to sit at the table where he was eating. From there, “he touched my heart in such a special way.”

The next time he went back, Donald sat at his table without asking, clasped their hands together, looked Caruso in the eyes and said: “I love you.”

He was speechless and being from the Bronx, he said, assumed there was some hidden agenda.

A week before Christmas Caruso returned and Donald asked, “Do you need anything financially?” and said, “I’m here for you” and gave him a signature bear hug. “I said to myself there is either a huge hidden agenda, or this is one of the most special people that I’m going to get to meet in my life.”

He continued to go to the restaurant, now with his family, who were like Donald’s family.

“I remember one of the last times I stopped him for a slice. He said to me, ‘Jack, go home. Give your wife a kiss. Give your kids a kiss. And tell them you love them.’

“So, I could never wear his shoes. But all I want to say to each and every one of you is from the words of Donald: tell the people in your life you love them. It’s so special. I will never in my life ever forget, Donald.”

He then remarked on the number of people who attended the gathering and how it showed Donald Bekteshi was a real pillar of the community.

“I miss him terribly,” he said, starting to cry, “I want to say in front of you all: I love you Donald.”

No posts to display


  1. I knew this man for over 40 years. I met him back when he was in Queens on the service road with a small pizzeria. I LOVED THIS MAN! I just read he passed now, today, October 16th. I am in shock. I am weeping. A kind, funny, sweet, beautiful man. No one I’ve ever met worked as hard as he did. NO ONE! I didn’t see him for many years and one day walked into Villa Milano; I jumped into his arms!!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here