Old Street Pub, Smithtown’s iconic restaurant and bar, opened its doors 50 years ago, and it’s been serving generations of loyal Smithtown customers ever since. So, what’s been the secret to their success?
“We do have the best burgers around,” said Laura Lombardi, who owns the restaurant with her parents Nancy and Frank Pizzimenti, and her brother Frank Jr. “We use only fresh ingredients — nothing frozen — and our brioche buns, which we get from Alpine Bakery, are baked daily,” Pizzimenti Jr. added.
Old Street is also famous for their cheese and crackers “Old Street” way, marinated steak sandwich, French onion soup and Caesar salad. With a large menu of burgers, steaks, chicken, appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps, seafood and pasta, the restaurant offers something for everybody.
The recipe for success, though, for this family-run business also includes individual service.
“We are told on a daily basis by our customers that we make everyone feel comfortable,” said Lombardi. “A lot of our customers call Old Street ‘home’ — we couldn’t ask for a better compliment.”
That homey atmosphere has been a tradition that has inspired not only loyal customers, but also the employees. Joseph LaRock, chef, bartender and manager, has been a mainstay at the restaurant for 32 years. Joanne Gregory, a bartender, has been there for 13 years.
As for Pizzimenti Jr., he started working at the restaurant as a dishwasher in 1986, at age 17. He climbed the ranks and learned the business. Ten years later, he got his family involved when the restaurant’s longtime owners, the Atamanchuk family, decided to sell the restaurant.
When the Old Street Pub first opened in 1968, a few things were different. Namely, the restaurant was originally called Gold Street Pub. When the “G” fell off their sign about a year later, the Atamanchuk family decided to go with it.
“Fifty years ago, Old Street was busy day and night, seven days a week as there were only two other restaurants in town,” Pizzimenti said. “Now we have to work even harder to get people into our establishment as there are so many other restaurants to choose from in the area.”
The restaurant once had extremely busy corporate lunches, which included porterhouse steaks, martinis and desserts. With the recession in the early 2000s, their lunch crowd shrank drastically.
“That was probably the biggest obstacle we had to overcome,” Lombardi said. “Other than working with family.”
Approximately 10 years ago, the restaurant started offering weekly specials.
“We like to include seasonal menu items and use local products in our specials,” she said.
The restaurant is located in the busy Branch Plaza shopping center at the intersection of Main Street and Route 111. The restaurant’s brick facade, arched windows and heavy, carved wooden door flanked with colorful planters announce that it’s not your run-of-the-mill, strip mall eating establishment. Once you walk through the main entrance, you can enter either the dining room to the left or the pub to the right. The same fresh food can be ordered on either side, only the atmosphere differs slightly. The dining room seats 75 people and is decorated with white tablecloths. It appeals to families, but is also known to be a good choice for people on dates or catered affairs.
The wood-paneled pub includes barstool seating and a large area with upholstered booths.
Old Street serves thousands of people monthly. Some patrons admit that the restaurant’s attraction is simply its close proximity to their homes. But the family’s commitment to their loyal customers is undeniable.
“You have to be extremely passionate and hardworking,” Lombardi said. “You make a lot of sacrifices working nights and weekends. You are constantly away from your family, and dealing with daily deadlines, and you never know on a daily basis how many people will be walking through the door, but you always have to be ready.”
The restaurant business is clearly a tough business, but things have fallen into place for Old Street, either through intentional planning or in case of the name by mere happenstance.
“We’re not perfect,” said Pizzimenti Jr. “But we try.”