Tagliatelle with shrimp at Elaine's in East Setauket.

Tagliatelle with shrimp at Elaine's in East Setauket. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Elaine’s has been open for barely a month and it already feels like an established neighborhood watering hole. On a recent Friday night, every table was occupied, people were two deep at the bar and owners Elaine and Enzo Micali bopped around the dining room greeting most customers by name.

“I was hoping it would be gradual,” Elaine said. “But we’ve been hammered since Day 1.”

Elaine Micali is a familiar face around what locals call the Three Villages — Stony Brook, Old Field, Poquott and the Setaukets (regular and East). She and Enzo moved to Stony Brook in 1993 and, for the last 10 years of its existence, she worked at Pentimento, the Italian eatery that closed in 2021 after 27 years in Stony Brook Village Center. In fact, the Micalis tried to take over Pentimento’s lease from its original owners, but the landlord went with David Tunney, who gutted the space and opened Luca in 2022.

Elaine now feels “the universe had a different plan.” The Micalis did their own gut renovation of the former Tai Show North, transforming the dim hibachi spot into a casually elegant, light-filled space.

The dining room at Elaine's in East Setauket.

The dining room at Elaine's in East Setauket. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

Many of Pentimento’s employees are here, including server Guillermo Escobar and, in the kitchen, chef Josue Trejo. He has resurrected Pentimento favorites including pollo al mattone, chicken grilled “under a brick” for juicy meat and crispy skin, and panelle, the chickpea-flour pancakes that are a common street food in Sicily.

Six “per tutti” starter selections ($15 to $32) are designed to be shared and are inspired by Enzo’s childhood memories of eating on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx: meatballs with peppers and onions, mussels marinara, fried calamari, clams oreganata, bruschetta and a “Bronx antipasto platter.”

Fried calamari at Elaine's in East Setauket.

Fried calamari at Elaine's in East Setauket. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

The rest of the menu is a combination of Italian and New American — arancini, burrata and blistered shishito peppers; Caesar, arugula and beet-goat cheese-grapefruit-quinoa salads; tagliatelle with shrimp, pasta alla Norma, linguine carbonara; chicken Milanese, grilled salmon with quinoa, pan-roasted halibut on parsnip purée, skirt and strip steaks. Most starters range from $12 to $18, pastas from $24 to $36; mains from $24 (for a burger) to $67 (for that 14-ounce prime strip steak).

During weekday “happiest hours” (4 to 6 p.m.) the bar pours $10 glasses of wine, $6 tap beers and serves $15 pizzas and $10 snacks such as zucchini chips and wings.

The Micalis considered a number of names for their venture. “‘Enzo’s’ was in the mix,” Elaine noted, “but, even though I never liked my name, ‘Elaine’s’ just sounded like a good restaurant name.” The name worked out well for Elaine Kaufman who, from 1963 to 2011, ran one of New York’s most celebrated — and celebrity-filled — hot spots on the Upper West Side.

Elaine's, 316 Main St., East Setauket, 631-678-1950, elaines-setauket.com. Open Monday to Wednesday 4 to 9 p.m., Thursday 4 to 10 p.m., Friday 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday 5 to 11 p.m., Sunday 3 to 9 p.m.

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