Louis Selvaggio Jr., who presides over Long Island’s most celebrity-magnetic restaurant, Robke’s of Northport, is branching out. His Birdie Bar will replace Seven Quarts Tavern, which closed at the end of the year. The new eatery is located two blocks east on Fort Salonga Road and he is hoping for a May opening.
"I’m going to be crossing the street a lot,'' said Selvaggio.
Like Robke’s, which Selvaggio owns with his parents and siblings, Birdie Bar is a family affair. His sister, Mia, came up with the name — a golf term that signifies a hole score that’s one stroke under par — to honor his brother, Paul, a pro at Westchester Country Club. His mother, Vera, will be consulting on the décor and his father, Louis Sr., will be involved in all aspects of the planning. "Anything I do he will always be part of."
Despite its name, Birdie Bar will not be a golf-themed restaurant. "I don’t even play golf," Selvaggio said, "but I just liked the name — it’s appealing and a little mysterious. Customers are going to be surprised when they see the place."
The Selvaggio family has experience with enigmatically named restaurants. Ernest Robke’s Country Inn opened in 1961 serving All-American steaks and burgers. After Louis Sr. bought it in 1978, he gradually transformed the menu to align with what he learned growing up and cooking in the Italian community of Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. He never thought to change the name.
Over the decades, the father stayed in the kitchen while his son, now 40, took over the dining room and developed a gift for attracting celebrities, from pro athletes like baseball great Daryl Strawberry and NBA star Rick Barry to TV stars like Kevin James and Theresa Caputo (the Long island Medium).
Unlike Robke's, which attained its current outline after decades of organic evolution, Birdie Bar is an opportunity for Selvaggio to put his personal stamp on the restaurant's concept from the get-go. Seven Quarts Tavern, which opened in 2015, will be getting a gut renovation, emerging with a décor that is he says, will be "chic, a little clubby, and more upscale than Robke’s."
The kitchen will be run by chef Antonio Guillen, whose most recent gig was as executive chef at H2O in Smithtown. "The food will be American-style," Selvaggio said, "a lot of steak, a lot of fish, a big raw bar. We’re going to bring some really good ribs to Northport, too."
The last thing Selvaggio wants is for Birdie Bar to compete with Robke’s: The two restaurants will share little beyond their proximity and their ownership. The price point at Birdie Bar will be markedly higher, for one, and it won't be open for lunch. And, Selvaggio said with a wink, "at Birdie Bar I’ll be doing everything I don’t do at Robke’s: parking, reservations and credit cards."