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Woodbury's Speranza: sleeping with the fishes

Its lifespan was just short of a year. But Speranza Fine Italian Food Studio managed to pack more controversy, hype and showbiz flash into that short time than most restaurants see – well, ever.

Speranza has now closed for good, according to Dave Dickinson of W&W Hospitality Group, which owns the Best Western Inn, where the restaurant leased space. Virtually everything in the house has already been auctioned off.

I can only wonder who bought the illuminated revolving pastry case. Or the toilets with seat warmers and the bidets. Or the bathroom photo-art depicting a nude woman’s torso. Showy didn’t even begin to describe the place.

Speranza got off to a rocky start, drawing negative attention even before it opened. Much funding came from accused Ponzi swindler Nicolas Cosmo, whose company Agape World put up a large chunk of construction money. And Richard Ottimo, the driving force behind the restaurant, had issues preventing him from legally owning it; his father, Anthony Ottimo Sr., was the official owner.

What wasn't the least bit controversial was the food. Noted Long Island chef Michael Meehan got three stars from Newsday’s Peter Gianotti. Still, Gianotti's review began with a discussion of the scene: “It's flashy and extravagant in a vaguely Vegas way, from the diligently overblown decor to the inimitably underdressed hostesses.”

Meehan left after six months.

Why did the place close? “A lot has to do with the times,” said former general manager Dennis Borysowki, who left in June to work at Four Food Studio in Melville (which, incidentally, sued Speranza for the use of the term “food studio”). “It was a very expensive restaurant to operate. On weekends, business was good but started to taper off. If it’s something new, everybody wants to come and try it.”

Meehan, now executive chef at H2O in Smithtown, had only kind words. “It’s a shame things didn’t work out for them,” he said.

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