One of Long Island’s Southern-style stalwarts will serve its last sweet potato next month. Leisa Dent, who owns LL Dent with her mother, Lillian, said that, after 13 years, their Carle Place restaurant would close at the end of February.
“Our lease was up,” Leisa said, “and closing was something my mother and I had been thinking about for a while — for a lot of reasons.” While Leisa ran the kitchen, Lillian was a warm and gracious presence in the dining room.
Leisa cited the rising costs of food and labor, and the fact that “no matter your costs, you can only charge your customers so much.” Then, too, after she underwent a gastric bypass operation in 2008, her relationship with food “did a 180. I eat a lot more vegetarian now.” Leisa, 57, acknowledged that the restaurant is no longer the new, exciting kid on the block. But overriding it all, she said, was “burn-out. I was no longer excited to cook every day, it was more like ‘time to make the doughnuts.’’
When she and her mother opened LL Dent in 2006, Leisa was a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef with eight years as a corporate chef at Marriott under her belt. Before that, she’d spent about two years cooking for Eddie Murphy, with whom she had graduated from Roosevelt High School. Though raised in Brooklyn and Roosevelt, her culinary roots were planted in Georgia, where both her parents were born and where she spent her summers because it was Lillian's view that "children should not be in New York during the summer."
In addition to its menu of Southern favorites, such as fried chicken, catfish, collards and fried green tomatoes, LL Dent took the idea of community seriously. In 2012 the restaurant hosted a reception for three surviving “Freedom Riders” who, during the 1960s, challenged racism in the Jim Crow-era South. Lillian spoke at a forum for the local chapters of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and Leisa offered cooking classes at the Westbury Library.
Leisa’s plans for the future are emphatically up in the air. “It’s a new beginning for me,” she said. “I want some time when I don’t have to worry about the books or the shifts or the specials. If, after a break, cooking is still my passion, I’ll find my way back into the kitchen.”
For now, the planned closing date for LL Dent is Feb. 28, but Leisa said it might be earlier, so don’t put off your visit.
LL Dent is at 221 Old Country Rd., Carle Place, 516-742-0940, lldent.com.