Fabio Giambanco is the owner of Fabio's on the Water...

Fabio Giambanco is the owner of Fabio's on the Water in Merrick. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

When Fabio Giambanco opened AcQua in 2013, it seemed like the perfect name: The Italian restaurant sat on the water (“acqua” in Italian) on Merrick’s southern shore. He didn't realize that another waterfront restaurant in neighboring Bellmore was called Villa d’Aqua and, for the first few years, it wasn't a big problem.

Until it became a big problem. There was always the chance that only one portion of a dinner party would wind up at the correct location. But as online searches and reviews became more important, Giambanco said, “I just got tired of all the confusion. There would be reviews of that place on my Yelp and Google pages, people in Facebook groups would discuss — and tag! — the wrong place.” On Nov. 2, his crew hoisted a new sign onto the side of the building that proclaimed Fabio’s on the Water.

The re-christened restaurant has a modern new bar that’s aglow with red and blue backlights. The menu lost a handful of items and added a few, including chicken alla Fabio’s: Pan-seared chicken breasts served with steamed spinach, roasted red peppers, melted mozzarella in a Burgundy sauce, each topped with a shrimp. But, otherwise, nothing has changed.

Fabio’s bill of fare is classic Italian American, from the baked clams, fried calamari, Caesar salad and cold antipasto to the chicken and veal Parmesan, Francese, Marsala and Sorrentino, pasta Alfredo and alla vodka. Almost everything can be ordered in individual portions or family style. (Family-style starters are $17 to $31.95; pastas are $21.95 to $31.95; entrees are $26.95 to $64.95.)

Giambanco was just 20 years old when he and his brother opened Acqua 10 years ago. (His brother left the business in 2016.) Back then the restaurant consisted of a 16-seat bar and a large waterside patio. When the weather grew cool, he erected small tents on the patio and, eventually, they were replaced with one huge, winterized tent that turned the patio into an all-year dining room that seats more than 80. Beyond the enclosed patio is an open-air one that also seats 80.

The decision to rename the restaurant Fabio’s was not to cover its owner with glory. Giambanco’s father, also called Fabio, owned Fabio’s Ristorante Italiano in East Meadow, where his young son worked as a coat check, among other jobs. Opened in 2000, it was destroyed by fire four years later. Rebuilt and reopened in 2004, it closed in 2006. “So,” explained Giambanco, “Fabio’s is more than just my name.”

Fabio's on the Water, 1944 Bayberry Ave., Merrick, 516-623-4400, fabiosmerrick.com. Open Wednesday-Thursday 3-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday noon-10 p.m., Sunday 1-9 p.m. Closed Monday-Tuesday. (Summer hours are longer.)

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