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Bluebird Kitchen replaces Red Robin in Bellmore 

Black sea bass is garnished with cauliflower, pickled

Black sea bass is garnished with cauliflower, pickled red onions and caper brown butter at Bluebird Kitchen in Bellmore. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

"Everyday food, but in a way you’ve never had it." That’s how Al Di Meglio describes the concept at Bluebird Kitchen, which opened in December in the former home of Red Robin in Bellmore.

The chef, a veteran of high-end Manhattan restaurants, has run the Southern Italian Barano in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, since 2016, and it was one of his partners in that venture, Louis Silverman, who lured him out to Bellmore. Silverman and Adam Mann were Red Robin’s landlords and when the fast-food location closed in 2020, the owners did not want to rent to another chain. After fielding a number of offers from Long Island restaurant groups, they decided to open their own — if Di Meglio would come aboard too.

The chef discovered that there were major advantages to taking over a four-year-old Red Robin. The building was solid, the kitchen was spacious and well laid out, and the parking lot held 80 cars.

Aided by design firm Hyphen & Co., the team transformed the space with shades of sky and sand. Di Meglio said that Silverman has a thing for the bluebird — a symbol of peace, tranquility and peace — and the designers created a custom motif for the wallpaper that portrays the birds surfing, enjoying a cocktail, reading at the beach, strutting and admiring the Manhattan skyline.

The vibe is different than the rustic swank of Di Meglio’s Brooklyn trattoria, though Bluebird Kitchen has some red sauce flowing through its veins: meatballs with herbed ricotta, chicken Parm with fresh mozzarella, maccheroni alla vodka and potato gnocchi with braised short-rib ragu. (All pastas are handmade in the Barano kitchen.)

But the core of Bluebird Kitchen’s menu is elevated takes on American comfort favorites: Parker House rolls are made in house; the pigs in blankets are kosher franks wrapped in puff pastry that’s been seeded in homemade everything spice; the Bluebird burger is topped with Adirondack Cheddar and served with hand-cut fries; Cobb salad is made with baby romaine, double-smoked bacon and red-wine vinaigrette; roast chicken is partially boned and flattened under a brick; ribs are lacquered in an espresso barbecue sauce and served with red cabbage slaw.

There are a handful of dishes that would be at home in a much fancier restaurant such as a dry-aged porterhouse steak for two and a pan-roasted black sea bass whose elegant presentation relies on the chef’s ability to wield cauliflower three ways: raw slivers, roasted florets and a luxuriant, buttery purée. With the exception of a few steaks, all mains are under $29; sandwiches and salads are $15 to $19; starters, $7 to $19. Desserts, $8 to $12, are all American, from banana cream pie and carrot cake to baked-to-order chocolate chip cookies and a Bluebird sundae.

Di Meglio foresees months of commuting between his home in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Bellmore, but two key members of his team live within 20 minutes of the restaurant, chef de cuisine Brock Katz, a Bellmore native, and general manager Luciana Autilio. For now the restaurant is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday; lunch is in the offing.

Bluebird Kitchen is at ​​2405 Merrick Rd., Bellmore, 516-962-9600, bluebirdkitchenli.com

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