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Port Jefferson restaurants Ruvo and Old Fields are back open after sustaining serious damage during a Sept. 25 flood. Photos from Facebook

The skies opened and dumped buckets of water on Port Jefferson Village Sept. 25.

The area was hit with more than 4 inches of rain during the evening into the night, according to the National Weather Service, leading to severe flooding and leaving behind devastating damage. Two Main Street restaurants — Ruvo East and Old Fields of Port Jefferson — sustained significant damage that night, causing emergency evacuations and significant periods with their doors closed while feverish-paced repairs took place.

“I definitely have the best staff in all my restaurants,” said Joe DiNicola, owner of Ruvo. The restauranteur said the possibility of closing the doors to the establishment for good was a distinct possibility, but after weeks of hard work around the clock that possibility went away Oct. 11. “We bonded together and decided we were going to reopen it. Since then that’s been our common goal.”

The restaurant reopened Thursday afternoon. DiNicola said the building was inundated with about three feet of water as the rain poured down Sept. 25. The repair job required the reupholstering of most if not all of the restaurant’s furniture, “gutting” and redoing four bathrooms, a new roof, plumbing and electrical work, and more. He said his staff was all retained through the reconstruction process and nobody missed a paycheck. He said he encouraged his staff to take time off, making sure no one was putting in full seven-day work weeks, though many were there up to six days per week, and DiNicola said he was logging 15-hour days and beyond during the cleanup effort.

“We’ve had water in the past — a little bit,” he said. “This was an event that it was an anomaly. I just don’t understand. It was just rain.”

DiNicola said water poured into Ruvo from the roof, through drains and eventually in the front door. About 20 cars were totaled in the parking lot, he said. The Port Jefferson Fire Department — which sustained substantial damage itself at the Maple Place firehouse — had to assist people in exiting both Ruvo and Old Fields that night, in addition to helping stranded residents out of about a dozen cars. DiNicola and Old Fields owner David Tunney both heaped praise on the fire department for the work they did that night.

“Thank you to all first responders, village workers, volunteers, our staff, and to you, our loyal customers, thank you for all of your support,” Ruvo posted on its Facebook page Oct. 12.

Old Fields, which is just on the other side of Wynn Lane on Main Street north of Ruvo, was able to reopen Sept. 28, according to Tunney, who said he was thankful the situation here was not worse, sending his condolences to those experiencing recent storms in Florida and the Carolinas.

“It has been frantic,” he said. “We worked really hard and diligent to get back open. The water came in quick.”

Tunney’s restaurant was closed for two days, compared to nearly two weeks for Ruvo, though he said the job required a team of about 30 people working to clean and sanitize the soggy eatery. He said even in the moment on the night of the flood, he was able to keep things in perspective, joking that he told a member of his staff who asked if they needed some more rags, “no, get some tequila.”

This post was updated Oct. 16 to correct the date Old Fields reopened.

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Broadway Market, a Rocky Point restaurant that opened in March, has quite a lot on its plate.

It’s not just the food — even though the restaurant has offerings not only for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but all the way through coffee, desserts and alcohol — it’s that owners Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole both respect what a place like the Broadway Market means to the community.

“I think it’s an anchor business, and I think it gives people another reason to try to come here – bringing Rocky Point back to a walking town,” Olenick said.

Olenick and Pole are both area natives, having first met at the Rocky Point Farmers & Artisan Market nearly five years ago. After learning about each other’s expertise, with Pole in the organic meats market and Olenick in baked goods and desserts, the two decided to partner up and take their show on the road. They travelled to multiple farmers markets across Long Island, and by the third year of working together the duo was going regularly to seven local markets every season.

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite their success on the local market scene, the idea for a brick-and-mortar restaurant didn’t cross their minds until they tried to meet a demand for chicken cutlets. Because of state regulations, they could only sell chickens whole without an inspected, clean location to butcher them. Though the two looked all over Long Island for a proper space, their eyes settled on a location in Rocky Point right near the farmers market where they first met. They settled on a location that was once home to a bar, first named Harry’s Beer Garden and then Gracie’s Hearty Foods.

“It already had all the wastewater approvals, the sanitary requirements we needed and an inspected kitchen,” Pole said. “It’s funny, we went on a quest for a spot, you know a wet space, in a walking town and circuitously we wound up back here.”

The idea grew exponentially past a simple place to sell their meats and sweets. At the start of their building project they thought they could get away with a Keurig coffeemaker, but that transformed into days of barista classes in New York City. They originally didn’t think that the restaurant would have a bar, but since the location already had a liquor license they decided to go through another round of classes, this time in bartending.

“We thought we would have a little closet — a little boutique — and we wound up with all this,” Pole said.

The building sticks out not just for its looks, with modern rustic-gray stonework and barn-wood interior, but for its freshness. Local community leaders have recognized just how much of a turning point the Broadway Market is for downtown Rocky Point.

“The Broadway Market is great — it’s bringing more attention to the community,” said Charles Bevington, the president of the Rocky Point Civic Association. “Rocky Point is still a place where people can invest.”

While the old Gracie’s stood in the same spot as the market, the only things left of the building are the western wall, a chair and the beer tower, now refurbished, that used to belong to both Harry’s and Gracie’s.

Pole said that all the food at Broadway Market is as regionally sourced as possible, including fish and vegetables as long as they are in season. Some 10 percent of the meats are grass fed, particularly the beef used for burgers, and they do their best to get their chickens from free-range sources.

On the bakery side of things, Olenick, who is a college-trained pastry chef, said she offers some of her own designs along with the designs offered by their trained in-house chef Elizabeth Moore.

Though the two owners know their food, it took a bit of time for the pair to figure the ins and outs of operating a restaurant. Over the past several months they have slowly increased the number of days and hours they are open. Now as the sun rises on the restaurant, the building strikes such a distinct poise compared to the other smaller, brown and white paneled buildings it neighbors. Some locals have described it as something one would only see in more affluent areas like in the Hamptons.

Broadway Market in Rocky Point, owned by Ann Olenick and Shasho Pole, is conjuring images of a revitalized, walkable downtown community hub for some locals. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We’ve had people say when are you opening in East Hampton, when are you opening in Huntington? Can you come to Soho?” Olenick said laughing.

“Stop, stop, stop — please, we need to get our traction here first,” Pole said, continuing from where Olenick left off. “There are naysayers, but the feedback that I get here is a resounding ‘we need this, we need something like this.’”

Either way, the community is responding to the new restaurant in a big way. Some see it as a dream of what might be the future of Rocky Point’s downtown.

“It’s good to have a nice restaurant in the area,” said Kenny Kowalchuk, a Rocky Point local who had just finished his meal at the restaurant. “This is really turning the community around.”

Broadway Market is located at 643, Broadway in Rocky Point. The location is open seven days a week, Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday 2 to 10 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The cheese steak egg rolls from Del Frisco's Grille. Photo from Del Frisco's Grille.

Residents of Huntington who are looking for a new bite to eat should look no further than Del Frisco’s Grille. Opening this Friday, June 24, in the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, Del Frisco’s promises to be a comfortable, family-friendly spot with twists on classic American dishes.

“We cater to such a broad audience,” Executive Chef Seth Barton said. “Yes, we are American comfort food with a twist, but you’ll see Mediterranean food on our menu, and Asian twists.”

It is the first and only restaurant from the Del Frisco’s chain on Long Island, and there is something for everyone. The menu ranges from classic burgers with their signature “sloppy sauce” to appetizers like the cheesesteak eggrolls, which have a sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard drizzled over them.

Popular entrees include prime beef short rib stroganoff with pappardelle noodles, prime ribeye and filet mignon.

Del Frisco's Grille in Huntington at the Walt Whitman Mall. Photo from Del Frisco's Grille.
Del Frisco’s Grille in Huntington at the Walt Whitman Mall. Photo from Del Frisco’s Grille.

Everything on the menu is made fresh in-house, which Barton said is one of the most important parts of the restaurant.

“We get our fresh seafood in daily; we’re trying to get the best quality out there possible,” Barton said. “That’s one thing we really pride ourselves on.”

Aside from lunch and dinner, the grill also serves brunch on Sundays, which includes items like red velvet waffles, chicken and waffles, crab Benedict and a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary that comes with multiple sides, including green beans, pickles and more. The menu includes weekly features, a rotating daily dish and various handmade cocktails, such as the signature VIP cocktail, which is made with only two ingredients — pineapple and clementine vodka.

The new spot holds about 300 guests indoors and has a private dining area that is available for parties. There is also an outdoor dining area on the patio that can hold at least 35 people.

The location where Del Frisco’s Grille sits had been empty for more than a year, the only vacated eatery spot in the mall.

Staffers said they can’t wait to get to know and become a part of the Huntington community.

“[We’re] super excited,” Barton said. “Everybody in this area that we’ve met with has been welcoming with open arms.”

Apple hand pies at Hometown Bake Shop. Photo from Danna Abrams

Pi Day will be extra sweet this year.

Hometown Bake Shop at 2 Little Neck Road in Centerport plans to open its doors on Monday, March 14, also known to math enthusiasts as Pi Day because the numerical date matches the first three digits of pi.

Northport resident Danna Abrams, 38, and Huntington’s Luigi Aloe, 42, are putting their collective business and culinary experience to use in the new shop endeavor. If they execute their vision successfully, “hometown” will not only be the name of their bakeshop, but the feel as well.

The menu will feature items made from scratch, both sweet and savory, with organic and gluten-free options and local influences.

“I’m a mom with three kids, and we all don’t have time to make everything anymore,” Abrams said in an interview at the under-construction shop on Tuesday. “We all wish we could do the slow-cooked brisket, the 20-hour pulled pork. We want that, and love that, with no preservatives and made from scratch and from someone who wants to make it and loves to make it. So that’s what [Hometown Bake Shop] is.”

The duo has been on a shared path for years, starting with graduating from Huntington High School.

Aloe also owns Black & Blue Seafood Chophouse in Huntington. He hired high school friend Abrams to be that restaurant’s pastry chef several years ago, and after some experience selling their products at farmer’s markets, the duo decided opening the new business was the next logical step.

Wrapped-up treats at Hometown Bake Shop. Photo from Danna Abrams
Wrapped-up treats at Hometown Bake Shop. Photo from Danna Abrams

Abrams’ three daughters are her inspiration, she said. Charlie, 9, loves her mom’s chicken potpie — which is Aloe’s favorite as well. Abrams’ recipe for her fudgy, chocolate brownies was perfected while she was pregnant with 5-year-old Ilan, and 3-year-old Riley loves anything with fruit in it.

“I’ve always been a foodie,” Abrams said. She holds a master’s degree in sculpture from Boston University but has worked in restaurants all of her life, including the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club and T.K.’s Galley in Huntington. Her Italian and Jewish roots influence her cooking and passion. She said everyone jokes she must secretly be from the South, because her fried chicken and biscuits are so authentic, they couldn’t possibly come from anywhere else.

Even though Abrams said cooking comes second nature to her, this is her first time venturing into the world of entrepreneurism. That’s where Aloe comes in — he’s spent time in the food industry, owning restaurants since he was 23. Together the two have all the ingredients for success.

“Danna is very talented and she’s like the heart and soul,” Aloe said. “I think what our whole thing is here is to try to be a family-oriented place.”

Abrams has plans to dedicate a refrigerated display to local produce and dairy products, as a way of supporting local business owners’ dreams in the same way she says Aloe did for her.

“The community here is very good to the stores,” Aloe said. “They’re not into conglomerates. … Everybody’s rooting for us — that’s what we feel like in the community.”

Hometown Bake Shop’s manager, Nicole Beck Sandvik, reiterated both owners’ vision for the business.

“We want people to walk in this place and have it be like their second home,” Beck Sandvik said. “When they don’t have time to cook breakfast or make dinner, they know they can come here and get a home-cooked meal.”

Hometown Bake Shop will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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The McDonald’s in Port Jefferson has closed. Photo by Reid Biondo

A longtime fixture in downtown Port Jefferson closed last week, leaving a business next to Village Hall empty.

The McDonald’s fast food restaurant on West Broadway had been controversial when it first moved in more than a decade ago, but what has been perceived as its abrupt closure has left some scratching their heads. Visitors were met with a sign directing them to a different franchise location in Port Jefferson Station.

“I was totally shocked,” Barbara Sabatino said about when she found out the harborfront restaurant had closed.

The owners and operators of the business, franchisees Peter and Katie Hunt, said in an email statement through a McDonald’s spokesperson on Monday, “It’s been a pleasure to serve this neighborhood and we appreciate the support of the local business community, elected officials and community partners. We are very happy to report that all of our employees have accepted jobs at nearby McDonald’s locations. We remain committed to serving Port Jefferson, and we look forward to continuing our work in this community.”

Sabatino, who runs the Port Jeff Army Navy in upper Port and serves on the village planning board, was a member of the now-defunct civic association at the time McDonald’s was trying to locate in lower Port more than 15 years ago.

“They really had a difficult time,” she said. “[Some people] felt that a McDonald’s did not fit their view of Port Jefferson.”

There were also people on the other side of the argument, she added, who had an attitude of “what’s the big deal?”

While village officials said they were concerned about how the restaurant would look, Sabatino said, the owner was “cooperative” on the architecture and finishing touches, giving it that “seafaring town look, with the dormers on the top and the little trim.”

And the business owner noted that the restaurant has been a good neighbor, cleaning up trash and keeping the property looking nice.

The controversy over it coming in was enough to spur the village board of trustees to take precautions for the future.

According to the village code, officials amended Port Jefferson’s zoning laws in June 2000 to prohibit “formula fast food establishments” in both the C-1 and C-2 central commercial districts, which are located along the main drag in the downtown and uptown areas, respectively.

Co-partners Salvatore Mignano, Eric Finneran, and Daniel Valentino inside VAUXHALL. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Burger fans of Huntington: rejoice.

VAUXHALL, a burger bar with a late night menu and coffee cocktails, is set to open soon on Clinton Avenue in Huntington.

Native Long Islanders Eric Finneran, Daniel Valentino and Salvatore Mignano named the joint in honor of the Morrissey 1994 album “Vauxhall and I,” and they want to bring a fun vibe to a spot in the downtown area that has seen many different tenants over the last several years.

Burgers will be the central focus, but Valentino said the restaurant will also have wings and other appetizers. The kitchen is expected to stay open till 2 a.m. or later.

Their coffee cocktails will combine different brews with a variety of liquors, including Jameson and Jack Daniel’s cinnamon whiskey. The guys also expect to have 14 different beers on tap and an extensive cocktail menu — Finneran said they recently hired a mixologist who is putting together a revolving seasonal list.

Located at the end of Clinton Avenue, near the traffic circle with Gerard Street, VAUXHALL will be at a corner that has been a revolving door for businesses in recent years, but Finneran said that fact didn’t deter the local guys from setting roots.

“We love it,” Finneran said, adding that it makes them work harder to succeed in that spot.

Valentino was born in Huntington and attended St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington. Finneran and Mignano are from the South Shore.

The front entrance of VAUXHALL
The front entrance of VAUXHALL

Valentino said they had been interested in Huntington village for a while.

“It’s a great town with the best walking traffic,” Finneran said. “It’s got that vibe that sets the tone to succeed in business. You set up shop here and you put out a good product and you’re going to win.”

This is not the first business venture for the three men. They are co-partners of the Amityville Music Hall in Amityville, a music venue that has hosted national touring hardcore bands like Glassjaw and Madball.

Finneran and Mignano are also co-partners of the Leaky Lifeboat Inn in Seaford, a punk rock bar they describe as “organized chaos,” and ZA Late Night Pizza in Seaford. Leaky Lifeboat Inn was named best bar in the Bethpage Best of Long Island program in 2012.

Valentino met his two partners while working as a bartender at the Leaky Lifeboat Inn.

“We built a great friendship, trust and rapport with him,” Finneran said.

Valentino said the trio is “always looking for the next thing.”

All three partners said the vibe of their new restaurant is “come as you are,” with a rustic feel.

“We want families during the day, but at night we expect the crowd to resemble the Leaky Lifeboat,” Finneran said. They also hope to capture the people leaving shows at the Paramount late at night.

“This is a unique, hip experience that is not in town yet,” Valentino said.

VAUXALL is expected to open sometime in late November but no official date has been set.

The Village Way restaurant in downtown Port Jefferson is closed. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Village Way restaurant closed its doors for the last time on Oct. 25, after decades operating in Port Jefferson.

Restaurant owner Alice Marchewka said in a phone interview that her landlord didn’t renew the restaurant’s lease, and she was not given an explanation for the decision.

The property owner declined to comment when reached by phone last week.

Marchewka, who ran the business for the last 10 years, said she did not yet know what she’d be doing next.

The Village Way, nestled on Main Street between Chandler Square and Mill Creek Road, served American cuisine, had an outdoor dining area and had live music and karaoke. It had operated in the village for more than 35 years, at one point going by the name “Chandler’s Pub.”

A farewell message posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page last week said, “It’s been a challenging 10 years but one I do not regret. We have had so many loyal customers that have become friends and part of the Village Way ‘family.’”

Gary Shek is the manager of Wasabi Steakhouse in Miller Place. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Smile.

That’s what Gary Shek tells his employees at Wasabi Steakhouse in Miller Place. As the manager of the hibachi restaurant, Shek’s main concern is providing good service by tending to the customers and ensuring high-quality food — two reasons that encourage new and repeat customers to return to the restaurant.

The four-star establishment opened March 23, 2014. Since then, Shek is usually the main employee greeting guests when they arrive, and sends them off when they leave. While it may take him a couple tries, it doesn’t take long before Shek remembers the names and faces of his customers, which adds to the guest’s experience.

“Let’s say I see your face [one time], a year later, I will still say hi,” Shek said. “You make [the customer] feel like [they are really important]. Of course, business is very important, but the customer, you have to make them feel like family.”

According to Shek, some hibachi restaurants focus on having a classy or elegant style, while he wanted his restaurant to be more family oriented, since many of the residents he serves are families who may remain in the area until their kids graduate high school.

Gary smiles for the camera with Wasabi Steakhouse owner Kenny Ching. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Gary smiles for the camera with Wasabi Steakhouse owner Kenny Ching. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kenny Ching, one of the owners of the restaurant, has known and worked with Shek since the mid-1990s. They met while working at the Secret Garden Tea Room in Port Jefferson. Ching said working with Shek is easy.

“I don’t have any pressure,” Ching said. “He can handle [work] pretty much himself. I don’t have to follow him. Training managers isn’t always easy.”

Shek credits his management skills to working in the hotel business in Hong Kong before he moved to Long Island in 1990. It was at the hotel where Shek tried to remember the names of hotel guests. It wasn’t until he transitioned to the restaurant business that Shek saw the difference between the hotel and restaurant business.

“From the hotels I [saw] the international [people from] different countries,” Shek said. “But here, [there are] local residents so I have to keep smiling every day [even if] I have a bad day.”

From 1995 to 1998 Shek also managed a Chinese restaurant for one of the individuals who owns Wasabi Steakhouse alongside Ching. Although Shek and Ching have to remember more types of dishes now than they did working at Chinese restaurants, they do their best to serve their customers and answer questions about the menu.

The service, as well as the food, is what keeps customers like Diana McGeoch and her family and friends coming back to Wasabi Steakhouse.

“We come here all the time,” McGeoch said. “Too many [times] to count. Fifteen plus maybe.”

“And he remembers us every time,” Brain Murray, a friend, said after McGeoch. “[The atmosphere is] very warm and welcoming. [Shek remembering our names] makes you feel special when you come here.”

Jean Casola of Rocky Point is another customer who dines at the restaurant for its service and high-quality food. Casola discovered the restaurant last year when she was celebrating her wedding anniversary.

“First of all, the service is amazing and polite beyond belief. Then the food comes out just the way you want it,” Casola said as she ate her dinner.

Shek said the restaurant goes out and picks up fresh cuts of fish and meats nearly twice a week, but also has fresh food delivered nearly five times a week. Leftover food is discarded after a day or more passes. According to Shek, some restaurants turn this food into an all-you-can-eat buffet.

While Shek acknowledges that people come back for the food and for hibachi, he doesn’t believe people come back to the restaurant because of him.

“I just want to be a successful manager,” Shek said.

But customers like Casola think differently.

Recently, Casola helped her daughter Faith pack for Pfeiffer University in North Carolina. She said her daughter misses eating at the restaurant, and in 30 days, so will Casola. She and her husband are moving to North Carolina to be closer to their daughter, but packing up means leaving Shek’s service and food at Wasabi Steakhouse.

“I don’t think they’re going to have anything like this there,” Casola said. “And they’re just not going to have another Gary, that’s for sure.”

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