Local restaurateur Anthony Scotto opened Insignia Prime Steak & Sushi...

Local restaurateur Anthony Scotto opened Insignia Prime Steak & Sushi in Smithtown, above, after Thanksgiving. Manhattan restaurateur Lenny Passarelli opened Grill 454 in Commack last month. (Dec. 29, 2011) Credit: Randee Daddona

Two new steak houses have opened on Long Island in recent weeks, and neither is inexpensive. Does this say anything about an improving economy?

Not necessarily, said Anthony Scotto, who should know something about restaurants. Scotto has been in the business since 1960, when he opened his first eatery in Port Washington. Scotto, owner of the Fox Hollow in Woodbury, The Chateau in Westbury, Blackstone in Melville, and other spots, opened Insignia Prime Steak & Sushi in Smithtown just after Thanksgiving.

"I'm a food person," Scotto said. "I'm not an economist." Opening a high-end restaurant in a struggling economy "is a concern," Scotto said. But he added, "It's what I do for a living. I open restaurants."

"Sometimes we invest money and we don't make as much as we need, and so be it," Scotto said. But, he added, "I've been doing business on Long Island for many years. I've got a pretty strong brand on Long Island."

Lenny Passarelli, owner of AJ Maxwell's Steakhouse near Rockefeller Center and Statler Grill near Madison Square Garden, opened Grill 454 in Commack a few weeks before Christmas.

"I'll be honest," said Passarelli. "It's not easy" opening in a tough economy, even if, as Passarelli said, Grill 454 is "moderately priced." Passarelli said he got a good deal from the landlord, Kimco Realty Corp. of New Hyde Park. He declined to discuss the deal, and Kimco officials could not be reached for comment.

"I'm very pleased with the amount of business we're doing," said Passarelli. Until recently, he said, getting a full-time wait staff was difficult because those with waiter jobs stayed where they were through the holidays.

Scotto said the opening of Insignia was a success, but he intends to wait awhile before declaring a total success.

"One has to wait six months to gauge what business will be," Scotto said. "When you open, there's a lot of curiosity. Then you've got to wait to see what's real."

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