How do you navigate the line between giving your old customers what they love while attracting a new audience? This was the dilemma facing Brian Galligan as he prepared to renovate Roslyn’s 19-year-old Il Mulino New York.
When it opened, Roslyn was the first satellite location of the Greenwich Village original (est. 1981) and it hewed closely to that classic aesthetic: Dark wood, filigreed chandeliers, bentwood chairs.
“Our customers loved the look of the place — just like they loved the one in the city,” Galligan said, “but times change and now the children and even grandchildren of Il Mulino customers are also our customers and they respond to a more contemporary design.”
Galligan had already transformed the restaurant in 2001 after buying it from its original owners, brothers Gino and Fernando Masci, with the idea of expanding a local favorite into a national brand. (There are now 10 Il Mulinos in New York, Florida and points in between.)
Now, he took a hard look at the dining room and started from scratch. The crimson carpeting was replaced with a modern pattern, the old chandeliers with sleek new fixtures. Out with the bentwood chairs, in with minimalist (though quite comfortable) upholstery. A coat room was removed to give more space to the semiprivate dining area along the eastern edge of the building and a row of tables was installed to the west of the bar. The old dark wood paneling was replaced by mirrors alternating with light wood slats.
Galligan was most excited about the booths that lined two walls. “I’d always wanted to have banquettes,” he said. “It just makes the room look so much warmer and people love to sit at them.”
The renovation took less than a month and the restaurant managed to stay open by serving in the downstairs event room. About the only things that didn’t change in the dining room were the white tablecloths and red roses that adorn every table — and the servers’ and captains’ tuxedos.
In the kitchen, however, it’s business as usual. The menu remains a testament to old-school Italian American (Caesar salad, clams casino or oreganata, veal piccata or Marsala, chicken scarpariello), Italian Italian (ossobuco, spaghetti alla carbonara, bucatini all'Amatriciana, risotto ai porcini) and some Il Mulino signatures (whole roasted Dover sole, chicken Parmesan made with a huge, flattened, bone-in cutlet, the house capellini with wild mushrooms, pancetta, sweet peas, vodka cream, black truffle sauce).
Regular customers know that the menu is only a guide: The daily specials are almost as numerous as the regular items and, even before ordering, your meal will start with an onslaught of free antipasti. (Free, yes, but somewhat subsidized by the chicken Parmesan, $54, spaghetti alla carbonara, $36, branzino, $75, Dover sole, $90.)
Perhaps in response to its pricey rep, Il Mulino offers two genuine bargains: Weeknights, there’s a three-course prix-fixe menu for $58 and, on Sundays, a three course “Sunday Supper” for $52.
1042 Northern Blvd., Roslyn, 516-621-1870, imny.com. Open Monday-Thursday 4-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m., Sunday 4-9 p.m.