It’s been a tough year for Long Island restaurants, weathering state-mandated shutdowns of dining rooms in the spring before a series of social distancing regulations that have reduced occupancy, prohibited large parties, restricted operating hours and otherwise changed the nature of business. Restaurants that have closed this year include:
American Cheese (Sayville): It had a 10-year run as one of Long Island's finest purveyors of domestic farmstead cheese, but also served panini, cheese and charcuterie platters as well as wine and local beer in an airy, light-filled dining area and a charming garden.
Café Formaggio (Carle Place): The Italian restaurant was a fixture on Old Country Road since 2006 and was known for, among other things, its ever-expanding menu of gluten-free pastas at a time when such a thing was hard to find on Long Island.
Bayou Jones (Merrick): When Bayou Jones closed in August, it represented the end of a venerable restaurant lineage. Lisa Livermore had been the owner of Long Island’s oldest Cajun restaurant, North Bellmore’s The Bayou, when it closed in 2018. The decision to take over the R.S. Jones space in Merrick when its owners retired in 2019 seemed like a master stroke: R.S. Jones had been founded in 1993 by two former Bayou employees and the two restaurants shared a rollicking vibe and a number of customers. (The Bayou, founded in 1986, was also the wellspring of Big Daddy’s, in Massapequa, where the bons temps still roll.)
Bonwit Inn (Commack):The catering hall-restaurant appeared on the scene in the 1980s with a seafood-heavy list of appetizers and mains such as a "seafood strudel" in which lobster, shrimp and scallops were wrapped in a crispy dough and served in a lobster cognac sauce. It also served an all-you-can-eat buffet Sunday brunch.
C’est Cheese (Port Jefferson): It was a bad year for cheese on Long Island. First, American Cheese in Sayville closed, followed the next week by C'est Cheese, one of the top places to eat and linger in Port Jefferson. Gone was the warm bistro atmosphere, gone was the case stacked with aged goat and raw milk cheeses, gone was the poutine and oozy grilled-cheese sandwiches and unparalleled beer lineup. Owner Joe Ciardullo gave the village a gift for nine years, and we are better (and maybe heavier) for it.
Bravo Nader (Huntington): Chef Nader Gebrin chose Facebook Live to announce the closure of his small but mighty, 24-year-old Huntington restaurant on May 15, lamenting that the year's onerous circumstances were "a disaster,' from both a financial and hospitality perspective. Not all was lost: In late summer, longtime Bravo Nader maitre d' Angelo Guzman opened Angelo's in the same spot; it's dining room is by turns more casual and modern, and chef Oscar Canales is still turning out hefty crab cakes, veal saltimbocca and bucatini amatriciana.
Canterbury’s (Oyster Bay): For Oyster Bay, it was always more than a restaurant. The 39-year-old eatery, long a downtown fixture on Audrey Ave., was as beloved for its walls lined with historic photos and Teddy Roosevelt-era memorabilia as its uber-fresh takes on the town’s namesake mollusk.
F.I.S.H. on Main (Port Washington): At their peak, Ayhan Hassan's Long Island restaurants numbered nine. Now, with the closing of F.I.S.H. on Main in Port Washington, they are down to two: Ayhan’s Shish Kebabs in Port Washington and Baldwin (plus Mediterranean Marketplace in Port Washington). F.I.S.H. opened in 2015 across the street from the original Shish Kebab, a ritzier reboot of Ayhan’s FIsh Kebab with chef John Brill at the helm. Brill’s post-F.I.S.H. career includes stints at the Olde Trading Post in New Hyde Park, BLVD25 in Manhasset and 7 Gerard in Huntington.
Coco Palace (Great Neck): It was one of a very few restaurants in New York serving the cuisine of Yunnan province in southwest China, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. The main event was Yunnan’s most famous dish, Crossing the Bridge Noodles--made tableside, it involved a small caldron of simmering pork-and-chicken bone broth loaded with chicken, pork, strips of omelet, squid, shrimp wood ear mushrooms, chives and scallions, followed by rice noodles.
Ginza (Massapequa): One of Long Island’s best sushi bars, Ginza opened in 2012 and was one of the first restaurants in either Nassau or Suffolk to offer fish that came directly from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market. The sushi chefs made the elaborate rolls that define the local sushi style, but they could also put together exquisite omakase ("chef’s choice") meals that are the traditional expression of the chef’s skill.
Kingfish (Westbury): COVID-19 was the culprit in the shuttering of local celebrity chef Tom Schaudel's Kingfish. Even after the state eased regulations to allow 50% capacity, he elected to stay closed. Five decades in the business have given Schaudel the self-knowledge to declare, "I made a decision that wasn’t ego-driven."
Left Coast Kitchen (Merrick): The gastropub enjoyed a nearly 10-year run serving riffs on classic and new American offerings, such as Belgian waffles topped with fried chicken and maple syrup, out of its tiny kitchen tucked in the far corner of the dining room. After dinner service, the vibe segued into a nightlife destination for local craft beer and creative cocktails.
Parlay Gastropub (Rockville Centre): Yet another gastropub that marked the intersection of bar-meets-restaurant, it was a nightlife destination for Long Island-brewed beers and trendy bites such as sliders or steamed buns while watching a game on the big screens or listening to DJ music.
Olde Trading Post (New Hyde Park): The gracious, two-story building at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Millers Lane has served many purposes during its 150-plus-year history, including New Hyde Park’s first general store and second post office. Veteran LI chef John Brill served tavern classics such as sliders, wings, nachos, shepherd’s pie and fish and chips.
Minado (Carle Place): This 17-year-old Japanese-food buffet was one of the first fallen of coronavirus, closing at the very break of March. While loyal customers had raided its expanses of sushi, hibachi ramen for years, they disappeared in late winter as the looming threat of COVID-19 left buffets deserted weeks before lockdown arrived. At the time, the owners reported that they would open a shabu-shabu restaurant in the same space; perhaps the vaccines of 2021 will help make that a reality.
Perennial (Garden City): Chef Peter Mistretta's Garden City bistro was an uncommon place, one where the bar snacks (wings, for instance, or maybe house-cured bacon, or carnitas tacos) were every bit as arresting as the larger plates of local fish, grass-fed steak or spaghetti with cauliflower ragu. It was nearly impossible to have a bad meal here, and Perennial landed on Newsday's top 1oo list twice, a feat for a two-year-old spot. The intricacies of COVID-era regulations made it untenable for the tiny Perennial to continue, said Mistretta in June. We will miss it for years to come.
Tao’s Fusion (Selden): The Chinese restaurant was a departure from ubiquitous pan-Asian spots that dot nearly every town across Long Island serving sushi rolls, Japanese, Thai and Chinese dishes. Owner Tony Chen and his kitchen staff cooked impressive dishes that could feed a group: an Uzbek-style lamb feast, Peking duck.