By Julianne Mosher
It’s been six months since a fire broke out at Mario’s restaurant in East Setauket, and now its former owners are taking back the space with an opening date on the horizon.
Brothers Jack and Gary Tipley owned Mario’s for 28 years, after opening up in 1979, but sold the restaurant to the family behind Branchinelli’s in 2007 when Jack Tipley sought out retirement.
“Mario’s was a big part of our lives,” Gary Tipley said. “That was really the mother ship.”
The Tipleys eventually became involved with several other business endeavors around town, including ownership of the center where Mario’s is located and as part owners of Billie’s 1890 Saloon in Port Jefferson.
But Mario’s was where it all began, and Gary Tipley said that they’re excited to bring the restaurant back to what it was almost 30 years ago.
“We’re excited to be back in the community,” he added. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
While the Branchinelli family owns its two namesake restaurants in Miller Place and Hauppauge, they also run dozens of Italian eateries across Long Island, including Colosseo in Port Jefferson Station.
After the fire in July took out most of the western part of Mario’s kitchen, they decided to give it back to its original owners and focus on the other establishments nearby.
Gary Tipley said that they are currently doing construction on the space to clean it up and are working on acquiring a liquor license. He is also planning on bringing pizza back to the spot, which locals loved nearly three decades ago.
“It’s going to be really family friendly,” he said.
As of right now, Tipley is anticipating a late-May reopening.
When asked, Anthony Branchinelli, one of the previous owners, declined to comment.