18 Bay restaurant closes on Shelter Island
Since they opened their Shelter Island restaurant in 2011, Adam Kopels and Elizabeth Ronzetti have always closed for the winter. But this spring, 18 Bay did not reopen.
“We thought about it long and hard,” Kopels said. “After the new year, we decided to take a sabbatical. We needed a break.”
Running a restaurant can be punishing, unrelenting work, but the chef-partners upped the ante by having virtually no help in the kitchen aside from a dishwasher. “We’ve always been the ones on the line,” he said. “We never even had a real sous chef.”
And no Restaurant Depot either; their restaurant was literally farm-to-table. Leaving their home on the North Fork in the morning, they swung by local farms and Southold Fish Market on their way to the ferry in Greenport. “We never served salmon,” Kopels noted. “You can’t catch it on Long Island.”
Once they reached the restaurant, the couple worked companionably in the kitchen, Kopels butchering fish and prepping vegetables, Ronzetti rolling out and filling the day’s homemade pasta.
The result of these labors was fare that was Italian in spirit if not name. The fixed-price menu was based entirely on the season, changed weekly and offered a choice only when it came to the entree — meat, fish or vegetarian. Each meal consisted of a quartet of antipasti, a pasta course, an entree and then one of Ronzetti’s simple desserts, many of which skewed more American than Italian, whether a true shortcake — biscuits smothered in fresh fruit — or a fat slab of Bundt cake.
The first iteration of 18 Bay opened in 2005 at 18A Bay Ave. in Bayville. Kopels and Ronzetti had met when they were both working at Il Panino in Huntington in the early 2000s. Kopels graduated from the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) and cut a swath through such vaunted New York City kitchens as Babbo and Lupa. Ronzetti graduated from the Culinary Academy of Long Island (now closed) and the kindred culinary spirits decided to go out on their own — opening a place small enough (16 tables) and remote enough (the restaurant was practically in Long Island Sound) that they could just do their own thing.
Their own thing proved extremely popular. In 2011, they moved the restaurant to an even more remote location on Shelter Island. The new spot brought them closer to the farmers and fishermen — this is when they began the practice of offering only one menu each night — and gave them a larger dining room with a shaded porch. 18 Bay was a mainstay on Newsday’s annual Top 100 restaurants list and Kopels and Ronzetti are two of only four local chefs who have been named James Beard Award semifinalists (along with Guy Reuge, formerly of Mirabelle, and the late Gerry Hayden of North Fork Table).