TODAY'S PAPER
Good Morning
Good Morning
LifestyleRestaurants

Long Island restaurants decorated for Christmas

Torta Fina in Babylon.

Torta Fina in Babylon. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Each year, eateries across Long Island usher in the holiday season with more than just specialty menus. Some serve up grand decorative displays that can put even the biggest Grinch in a merry mood.

Those with an appetite for festive flair can have their fill at any of these restaurants, where the greens are not just on the plate — they’re all over the grounds.

Oconee East Diner (749 Main St., Islip): Chef Bill Thompson is responsible for this eatery's eye-catching holiday displays. Above each table and booth are any combination of giant Christmas balls, artificial poinsettia leaves, snowflakes and starbursts. And while the sight of full-tilt décor is an annual experience, there are also updates to look forward to — such as the 12-foot skeleton standing outside wrapped in a string of glowing bulbs and wearing a Santa hat. It's joined by a blowup Grinch and inflatable "Minion." "We only got the skeleton in the last week before Halloween," explains owner Spiro Karagiannis, "and kids really love it." For the first two years the diner was open, Karagiannis says he hired a decorator. When that person retired, Karagiannis bought his decorations and Thompson took over. Each year, he spends about $1,000 to replenish the displays, which come down after Little Christmas. More info: 631-581-2663, oconeediner.com

Robkes (427 Fort Salonga Rd., Northport): This longtime Italian restaurant isn’t just a solid bet for red snapper alforno, a pork chop martini or celebrity sightings, but come this time of year, it’s a solid bet for a festive dining experience, too. Oversized bundles of light-up garland line the front of the stand-alone building where you can dine inside for a low-key vibe, or head to the heated tent for an over-the-top one. Here, you’ll find an abundance of fresh and faux hanging florals and ornaments, life-size nutcrackers and Santa statues spread throughout the space. Experience it until February. More info: 631-754-9663, robkesnorthport.com

Torta Fina (80 Deer Park Ave., Babylon): A trip to Rome more than a decade ago inspired the holiday décor at this bake shop and patisserie, says owner Joseph Campbell. The light display hanging from the more than 100-year-old building encompasses nearly 8,500 lights, all of which Campbell and a staffer hang up themselves. In year’s past, the building has been adorned by different colored lights, but this year you can expect an icy, clear white look. Fresh wreaths and garland add to the holiday cheer. Co-owner Thomas DeStefano handles the inside décor, where you’ll find more lights, garland and floral arrangements. Sneak a peek until New Year’s Day. More info: 631-669-0824, tortafina.com

Frank’s Steaks (54 Lincoln Ave., Rockville Centre): After more than 20 years in business, owners Chris Meyer and John Casper have hired Delahanty Designs to turn their steakhouse into an "enchanting" winter wonderland, equipped with a seven-foot-tall nutcracker, a Christmas tree and more than 50,000 lights. Elaborate garland featuring faux snow, presents, ornaments, snowflakes, gingerbread men and Candy Land props fills the space. Not one of the four rooms here have an identical appearance: Interior decorators Michael Delahanty and Colin O’Leary approached the bar area "like it’s Christmas morning," focusing on garland that lines the ceiling and is meant to appear as a hanging Christmas tree; the "lounge" is decorated with "The Chronicles of Narnia" in mind, while the dining room is more "classic and traditional," O’Leary said, pointing out the room’s large tree topped with a moving angel. The Lincoln party room is more "laid back and fun," he said, with brightly-lit wreaths on the window panels. More info: 516-536-1500, frankssteaks.com

Bright Eye Beer Company (50 West Park Ave., Long Beach): The hand-painted holiday window display outside of this brewery is matched by the spirit of all the holiday décor hanging inside. Ribbons are wrapped around poles, multicolored lights dangle across the length of the bar and ornaments hang from light fixtures. There's also a lounge space that's been surrounded by strands of lights, creating a view of endless illumination for anyone sitting inside. A Christmas tree will be installed soon, too, and new this year: a red disco ball for added "funky cheer." More info: 516-543-5736, brighteyebeerco.com

Il Posto Di Joey (84 New York Ave., Huntington): This classic Italian eatery features about $3,000-worth of festive wreaths and ribbons around its dining room. The restaurant's 25-foot fire-retardant Christmas tree has also returned to the patio. Decorations will stay up through Jan. 6. More info: 631-271-2253; ilpostodijoey.com

The Milleridge (585 N. Broadway, Jericho): This Jericho mainstay has more room than most — 12 acres — to dress for Christmas. In November, an in-house staff of about 20 spent nearly two weeks hanging wreaths on every window (about 150); placing roughly 600 poinsettias around the grounds; pinning down custom-made, light-up figurines throughout the adjoining walk-through village; and hanging a few hundred thousand holiday lights. Before they officially flipped the switch for the season, its president, Butch Yamali, says he sent a drone up for a full view of the village to ensure it was visible from nearby roadways. All told, he says he spent about $80,000 for the lavish display this season, and that attendees can also look forward to a holiday village, North Pole express train ride, holiday-related activities and karaoke. More info: 516-931-2201, milleridgeinn.com

B.K. Sweeney's Uptown Grille (636 Franklin Ave., Garden City): For more than 20 years, manager Lysa Jaramillo has decorated the pub the weekend before Thanksgiving (patrons of all ages have come to expect it). This year, Jaramillo and "her elves" (three co-workers) spent two full days hanging more than 15,000 lights throughout the pub. Lighted spiral Christmas trees and candy canes are at the main entrance. Inside the restaurant, garland lines entryways and trims the bar; wreaths are in abundance. Above the bar sits a Victorian village. Jaramillo reuses a lot of the decorations, which stay up through mid-January. "It's festive. Cozy," Jaramillo said. More info: 516-746-3075, bksweeneys.com

The Snapper Inn Waterfront Restaurant (500 Shore Dr., Oakdale): The owners have their eastern European ancestry to thank for the inn's 30-year tradition of hanging not just ornaments but an entire tree — placed upside down — in the Oakdale eatery. It takes about four staffers to place the 6-foot-tall artificial tree in the Connetquot River dining room, named for the riverbank the restaurant sits on, and two to decorate it, said general manager Kerry Blanchard. Decorations go up the week before Thanksgiving and come down right after New Year's. Aside from the upside-down tree, fresh garland lines the restaurant's exterior, entrance, walkways and bar area. A 14-foot artificial tree stands in the main dining room, and more than 100 poinsettias are placed throughout the 10,000-square-foot space. More info: 631-589-0248, thesnapperinn.com

Uncle Bacala's (2370 Jericho Tpke., Garden City Park): Italian food is the main event here, but come the holidays, the focus changes to décor, which starts in the restaurant’s vestibule with a life-size Santa surrounded by faux presents. Inside, owner Peter Hewitson and his staff dress the entire restaurant — a decked out Christmas tree greets guests upon arrival; oversized, lit wreaths line the window panels; and ribbon-studded garland, nutcrackers and small trinkets can be found throughout the eatery. Uncle Bacala’s is also bringing its "Winter Wonderland" outdoors for a second year, where guests can sit under a tent or in heated igloos surrounded by tall plants decorated for the holidays. More info: 516-739-0505, unclebacala.com

View (3 Consuelo Pl., Oakdale): When you step into this riverside fine dining restaurant tucked between the Connetquot River and a residential area of Oakdale, you'll be greeted by snow-dusted trees covered in seashell and starfish ornaments. It's "simple, yet stunning," said general manager Joe Scalice of the classic rustic-meets-nautical décor. For more than 35 years, a professional designer has been called in to decorate each of the restaurant's rooms. Lit garland elegantly drapes throughout the tea room, which features a sushi bar, waterfall and two fireplaces. The main bay-view dining room is accented with frosted trees and vintage lanterns, among other decorations. Customers can expect the waterside seafood spot to carry its festive theme through Jan. 6. More info: 631-589-2694, lessings.com

The Irish Coffee Pub (131 Carleton Ave., East Islip): This spot's natural colors lend themselves to the holiday season, says owner and operator Stephen Mahood. "We want it to be simple, subtle, elegant" while embracing the holiday season, he says. To strike that balance, the South Shore restaurant enlists the help of a former employee, Debbie McGorry, along with her assistant Liz Gorrasi, to decorate the entire 12,000-square-foot space with fresh wreaths indoors and outdoors, and poinsettias on all of the tables. Every year, The Irish Coffee Pub adds a few more details while maintaining an understated style. The greatest expense is the outside lighting, which largely contributes to the $10,000 decorating tab. More info: 631-277-0007, irishcoffeepub.com

Buckram Stables Cafe (31 Forest Ave., Locust Valley): Hit the slopes, no skis required, at this cozy restaurant that is transformed into a winter wonderland with a moving, miniature ski lift that stretches halfway across the back of the dining room. It's all part of the main attraction: a mantle that sits above the restaurant's booths and greets you upon entering the establishment. A small ski village sits atop decorated with numerous faux trees, snow and little cabins. The restaurant’s exterior is decorated as well, with 48-inch wreaths hanging from the cafe's front windows, along with garland, plants and holiday lights. More info: 516-671-3080, buckramstables.com

Eric's Italian Bistro (70 E. Old Country Rd., Mineola): This Italian restaurant lights up Old Country Road with a heavily decorated 150-pound wreath, illuminated stars, and some dressed-up garland and potted evergreen plants. Inside, there are more than 150 decorations including hanging ornaments, wreaths, bows, trees, garland and other (mostly handmade) pieces that are custom designed by chef and owner George Echeverria's wife Fanny. More info: 516-280-5675, ericsbistro.com

The Ice Cream Chick (46L Gerard St., Huntington): This five-month-old ice cream shop has transformed into a pink and purple fantasyland for the winter — with dashes of silver and gold. "We don’t allow red and green in here," said owner Christine Cairo. Until at least January, your next housemade ice cream sundae can be had under a ceiling of pink French silk ribbon and snowflakes. More than a handful of trees are setup throughout the space, along with festive lighting, glitter reindeers and disco balls. Cairo said she, with her mother’s help, starts decorating after Halloween and isn’t finished until around Thanksgiving. More info: 631-673-1100, theicecreamchick.com

Compiled by Janelle Griffith, Ian J. Stark and Joann Vaglica

Latest reviews