These 4 NYC chefs just opened restaurants on Long Island

Victor LaPlaca at his restaurant Haviland Kitchen & Bar in East Rockaway. Credit: Johnny Milano

Despite the city’s obvious allure, New York City chefs have long been leaving their restaurant homes in search of better prospects elsewhere. The pandemic spurned a fresh wave of chefs migrating east to Long Island suburbs to open new restaurants. Free from the difficult economics of Gotham restauranting, these chefs have arrived with neither regrets nor return tickets.

Joe Marchisotta at Season Bistro, Glen Head

Hometown: Queens

Restaurant resume: Aureole, La Cote Basque, Union Square Cafe (all Manhattan)

Once an hour or so, Joe Marchisotta departs a cramped if efficient kitchen and wanders into his dining room to chat with patrons, gauge their opinions of his food and ask how they heard about Season, the 37-seat Glen Head bistro he launched last August. The question is not an idle one. By his own admission, Marchisotta has done little to promote the existence of his eatery, pinning his success mainly on word-of-mouth. “I’m not all over the place telling people about it on every social media outlet,” he admitted. “It’s not just about the money.”

The ironic and inescapable conclusion Marchisotta reached after spending 25-plus years in the buzziest kitchens of one of the world’s greatest food cities: the actual food is too often beside the point. “Everybody just looked at me and saw dollar signs. They were always like, ‘I know this guy can cook. Wow, we’re going to make a lot of money with that.’”

Given the quality of Marchisotta’s cooking, such a view is both cynical and understandable. Here comes a bright and perfect Caesar, followed by mouthwatering cubes of Korean-spiced bacon and a pair of saucy meatballs that are simple and satisfying, baseball-sized and based on his dad Paulie’s recipe. Over there is a bowl of soft, housemade garganelli loaded with shreds of duck in a gold-standard wine reduction, and a burger that dreams are made of — a big blend of brisket and short rib meat, dressed with rigid strips of Nueske’s bacon, and finished with a couple of onion rings over a shiny brioche bun.

“Love, it’s the ingredient we have that a lot of people don’t,” Marchisotta said of Season’s popularity. “There has to be a love of what you do.” He gives it, and he gets it. During his dining room strolls, it’s not uncommon to see happy customers ask if they can give him a hug, to which Marchisotta reacts with both incredulity and a laugh. “I say, ‘you want to give me a hug? I’m like sweaty and nasty right now.’”

More info: 133 Glen Head Rd., 516-962-9330,

Joe Marchisotta at Season Bistro in Glen Head.

Joe Marchisotta at Season Bistro in Glen Head. Credit: Yvonne Allbinowski

Santokh Singh at Mahal, Roslyn Heights

Hometown: Jalandhar, India

Restaurant resume: Dawat, Tamarind (both Manhattan)

To bite into Santokh Singh’s Peshawari lamb chops, wherein formidable crunch gives way to utter succulence, is to appreciate the myriad powers of a hung yogurt marinade (curds, no whey), and also to taste one of the Island’s great loss leaders. Nothing, it seems, not even a $44.95 price tag, can overcome supply chain and inflationary pressures these days. But while his lamb is worth saving up for, much of the rest of Singh’s menu is modestly priced, especially for top-drawer Indian, which Mahal most definitely is. The Roslyn Heights dining room, gold dinnerware’d and soberly appointed in earthtones, is the stage for feather-light palak chaat spooned from a martini glass, prawns swimming in a chili-enhanced wine reduction, creative naans, and later, exquisitely executed entrees to include lobster masala, tandoori-spiced halibut, and a soul-warming chicken simmering in coconut milk — murgh cafreal.

Peshawari lamb chops at Mahal in Roslyn Heights.

Peshawari lamb chops at Mahal in Roslyn Heights. Credit: Randee Daddona

“I live just 10 minutes away from work now,” said Singh, a Hicksville resident whose commute was once a 3-hour odyssey, to storied Tamarind in TriBeCa, where he often found himself serving 300-plus dinners a night, albeit with the help of a much larger team. A busy night at Mahal, which also debuted in Dec., might only have half as many patrons — still impressive for a new restaurant — but Singh’s team is smaller too. “I have to be hands-on everywhere,” he said, “but I’m very happy here.”

More info: 290 Glen Cove Rd., 516-686-6983,

Santokh Singh at Mahal in Roslyn Heights.

Santokh Singh at Mahal in Roslyn Heights. Credit: Randee Daddona

Victor LaPlaca at Haviland Kitchen & Bar, East Rockaway

Hometown: Lynbrook

Restaurant resume: Isola and NeueHouse (both Manhattan); Todd English’s Olives (Boston, Manhattan, Las Vegas)

“I’m doing 150 covers tonight,” said Victor LaPlaca, shaking his head with an astonished smile as he and his team tried to navigate a three-seating Saturday evening at his compact, raucous and attractive Haviland Kitchen, “and we’ve only been around three months.” Around him, the chaos that is a hot new restaurant was everywhere in evidence — servers lugging high-stacked plates, dodging and darting past table bussers and bar staff with trays of cocktails packed tighter than rush-hour subway cars — but LaPlaca stood motionless at the pass, calmly steering his ship through the storm even as he carefully inspected every dish exiting the kitchen.

Out came the Lincoln-logged pile of lamb spare ribs, a juicy and smoky treat, especially when swiped through LaPlaca’s cucumber and goat cheese relish, mounds of spinach sauteed in brown butter over oysters “Rockaway” on ice, wheels of puff pastry dotted with gold and black sesame seeds and rolled around Wagyu beef dogs, velvety morsels of monkfish ladled with an exquisite lemony capery sauce, and a tender and wonderfully lean New York strip showered with oak leaf lettuce.

“I would always come home from traveling and living all over the U.S.,” the South Shore native said. “Friends out here were like, why can’t we have something like that? Something really good that’s not just in Rockville Centre or the North Shore or whatever.” One of those friends was Don Poland, whom LaPlaca met back in the ’80s when the two worked at The Porthole in East Rockaway. A schoolteacher by day, Poland is also LaPlaca’s business partner and Haviland’s bar manager. “The more we talked about it, the more the idea took on steam,” LaPlaca recalled. “We thought, there’s a lot of people around here that would really enjoy a good casual environment with a changing menu. This has got to work.”

More info: 43 Main St., 516-612-4545,

Victor LaPlaca at Haviland Kitchen & Bar in East Rockaway.

Victor LaPlaca at Haviland Kitchen & Bar in East Rockaway. Credit: Johnny Milano

Al Di Meglio at Bluebird Kitchen, Bellmore

Hometown: Staten Island

Restaurant resume: Barano (Brooklyn); Le Cirque, Rubirosa (both Manhattan)

“COVID changed the game, right?” On a recent dreary Saturday afternoon, Al Di Meglio was driving from his home on Staten Island to Bellmore, a trip that can take as few as 52 minutes or as long as two-and-a-half hours. “In Manhattan you used to need a lunch service, but now lunch is just OK. And the restaurant once always wanted to be in the urban area, but that’s not true anymore either. People are doing the same work they were before, but staying within their own ZIP codes, and that opens up a whole new chapter on the suburbs.”

It also opens up a new chapter for Di Meglio. In what has to be one of the happiest second acts ever for an ex-Red Robin, he and two business partners opened Bluebird Kitchen in December dedicated to “American, all-day, fun food, with our twist to it,” a description that belies the superb, exciting cooking on offer. A cake of glistening pink morsels surrounded by a moat of brown butter soy sauce arrives to wipe away any lingering memories you might have of lackluster tuna tartares past, followed swiftly by a plate of fried planks of eggplant and zucchini that is, yes, fun but also cleverly paired with a creamy avocado hummus. Make way then for a gorgeous saucer-sized disc of brick chicken over garlic mashed potatoes whipped into peaks and drizzled with chimichurri sauce, or perhaps the formidable New York strip, its meat finer than you’ll see in all but the finest steakhouses.

Zucchini and eggplant frites with spicy avocado hummus at Bluebird Kitchen...

Zucchini and eggplant frites with spicy avocado hummus at Bluebird Kitchen in Bellmore. Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

None of this should come as a surprise given Di Meglio’s work at Barano, the beloved Williamsburg trattoria he opened in 2016 and is still going strong, or his earlier tours of duty at Le Cirque and Daniel. But Bluebird is also something of a departure.

“For me, it’s always been about taking care of my family,” said the 45-year-old. “But in the beginning there was a selfishness. I wanted to work for the Michelin-star restaurants. I wanted to work for the great restaurants. And they were great. The squeeze bottle, tweezer thing? I enjoyed it. That was fun. But it’s not something I’m dying to get back to. I just want to cook good food.”

More info: 2405 Merrick Rd., 516-962-9600,

Al Di Meglio at Bluebird Kitchen in Bellmore.

Al Di Meglio at Bluebird Kitchen in Bellmore. Credit: Newsday/Erica Marcus

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