In a restaurant climate of bewildering menus and ever-rising prices, the owners of The Refuge are hoping to provide just that — refuge. With crowd-pleasing, value-priced Italian-American and Latin dishes, and an eclectic vintage decor that is equal parts "Remember the Alamo" and "Come with me to the Casbah," the new restaurant on Route 110 in Melville, which opened this week, takes aim at that dining sweet spot between ease and intrigue.
The Refuge Food & Spirits is the successor to Four Food Studio, whose ambitious New American menu and Space Age decor helped kick-start the Route 110 corridor restaurant revival, begun in 2005, that now includes Blackstone Steakhouse (2005), Jewel (2011), Trento (2013) and Nisen One Ten (2014).
The Refuge looks poised to create another round of buzz.
“We wanted to create a comfortable space that people wanted to be in,” said Jay Grossman, the restaurant’s managing partner. “And we wanted to serve food that was accessible, immediately understandable. The Latin guys kept talking about the food that their grandmothers make, the Italian guys talked about the food that their grandmothers make, and a spirit began to evolve.”
Thus The Refuge’s menu features guacamole ($12) and fried calamari ($12.95), seafood linguine ($21.95) and shrimp tacos ($15.95). A red-tiled wood-burning oven is used to bake both pizzas ($11.95 to $13.95) and empanadas ($3 apiece). The bar pours dozens of tequilas and bourbons. There are 14 craft beers on tap, another six in bottles. None of the more than 50 bottles of wine costs more than $50.
Like Four, The Refuge is a collaboration between Grossman and Ray Sidhom, who owns the building. The Refuge’s director of operations is Tony Greco, a 40-year hospitality veteran who ran the storied Long Island nightclubs Uncle Sam’s in Levittown and Malibu in Lido Beach. The distinctive design is the work of Dante Paganini who, with Grossman, scoured vintage markets in the United States, Mexico and the Caribbean to find the various barn doors, candle sconces and washboards that, somehow, have been forged into a cohesive whole. Grossman estimates that the renovation cost a little less than $2 million.
The restaurant seats about 120 and, in addition to a bar and main dining room, there are a number of elevated mezzanines and annexes that provide varying degrees of privacy. The Refuge is open for dinner seven nights a week; Grossman hopes to add lunch in the next few weeks.
The Refuge is at 515 Broadhollow Rd., Melville, 631-577-4444.