Why popular NYC restaurants are flocking to Roslyn 

Rigatoni Tuscana, spaghetti alla carbonara and a bread basket complete the table at Il Mulino, one of the NYC restaurants with an outpost in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

The Nassau enclave of Roslyn has some serious culinary cachet. Stroll down Old Northern Boulevard, past the serene sweep of Gerry Pond, and there’s TBar, then Felice, suburban outposts of two comfy Manhattan neighborhood spots. The new fast-casual Takumi Taco is tucked away in a deli. Pietro’s has taken up residence in the old Jolly Fisherman space on Main Street.

And a short drive away, on Northern Boulevard, you have Il Mulino, which was where this new wave started in 2004. Brian Galligan, co-owner of the Greenwich Village hangout, lived in Oyster Bay Cove and saw an opportunity to satisfy local cravings for luxuriantly sauced pastas, say, or langoustines with risotto. He cited the demographic of Roslyn, which pulls “from Locust Valley, Roslyn, Manhasset, Great Neck and the towns off Northern Boulevard,” as key. “Because of the highway, you get the city crowd, the Queens crowd and the larger North Shore crowd,” he continued.

Baked clams with bacon at Il Mulino in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

A lot of our consumers live out here, it felt obvious.

- Brian Galligan, Il Mulino co-owner

That sentiment is echoed by Jacopo Giustiniani, co-founder and COO at Felice, who moved to New York from Italy to work within the SA Hospitality group, which includes Sant Ambroeus, Casa Lever and Felice (“feh-lee-chay,” or “happy” in Italian). This cozy First Avenue haven for first (or fifth) dates took off and Felices sprouted around town.

The more time that Giustiniani spent on the Upper East Side, the more he began to notice the strong connection between the city and Long Island havens such as Roslyn. “Many of my customers were my age, in their 30s, dating in my restaurants, having first and second children, and moving out to the Island. Let’s go where all of my customers are moving,” Giustiniani reasoned. “Our landlord brought us the space. When I saw the pond, I fell in love.”

Ceasar salad is prepared tableside at Il Mulino in Roslyn.

Ceasar salad is prepared tableside at Il Mulino in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

In fact, that spot — which had been Friend of a Farmer two decades before and vacant ever since — boasted more pond-side frontage than any other village restaurant. Felice Roslyn quickly found its clientele, which Giustiniani describes as “very sophisticated and very supportive,” and the team felt connected to a community ready for an artful balance of the Tuscan and pan-Italian: crostini topped with crushed tomato and basil or chicken-liver mousse and crisped sage leaves; a sparkling-fresh tricolore salad; selected salumi and cheeses; fried calamari and baby artichokes; pastas such as cacio e pepe tonnarelli and gnocchi al pesto.

Much of the synergy between Manhattan and Roslyn came after John Durkin started as mayor in 2001. Chef-owner with his wife, Diane Margaritis, of Diane’s Bakery and Trattoria Diane since 1982, the new mayor understood the intrinsic role of local restaurants. “There’s a saying in urban planning,” he explained. “A strong downtown is a strong community. By preserving the integrity of a historic district but making it more pedestrian-friendly and more business-friendly, we set out to attract these guys from the city to our town.”

Avelina Malave, Melissa Mohabir and Eileen Marray traveled from the Bronx and Queens to dine at TBar in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Roslyn has long had a solid food identity. There was Friend of a Farmer and The Jolly Fisherman & Steakhouse — a 66-year-old mainstay that closed in 2023 — and Hendrick’s from the prolific Poll Brothers, as well as Thyme, Kotobuki, Besito’s and, of course, Diane’s. “Initially, the relationship was between Manhattan and the Hamptons,” Durkin said. “But ultimately, I think that most people find the Hamptons challenging, more seasonal. This is a great year-round destination for a second business,” he continued. “This was our 20-year plan.”

According to Derek Axelrod, designer-owner of TBar, having multiple city spots in one destination “boosts the entire town. These are all competitors that we work well with and align with.” He was a loyal patron of TBar on 60th Street in the city and became friends and business partners with that place’s Tony Fortuna, a 40-year veteran restaurateur and famously genial host. Axelrod said the pair began talking about expanding the brand to fit a younger demographic looking for a sexy vibe and consistently good food. “I grew up in Old Westbury, I’m a Long Island guy,” he said.

Roslyn's TBar is an upscale spot for cocktails and crowd-pleasing fare. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Fortuna died of cancer in January of this year, just weeks before the Roslyn opening, but the luxe warmth he was known for echoes here through the bar, sultry and backlit, and the dreamy, creamy dining room, with its calm simplicity. The soundtrack is recognizable but faint; you can hear the conversation at your table. It’s a grown-up restaurant for your hard-to-please inner child who still wants to feel relevant and cool.

TBar reminds patrons they “don’t have to run into the city all the time” for their high-level steaks — a 40-ounce porterhouse, an 8-ounce filet mignon — as well as truffle-mushroom rice balls, herb-grilled branzino, soy wasabi — crusted tuna, black ink linguine with spicy lobster, and crispy sushi. Island additions include pizza from the brick oven, a raw bar and a 40-seat roof deck that will serve brunch on weekends.

A more relaxed — and inexpensive — meal may be found at Takumi Taco, a Japanese-Mexican fusion spot that got its start in 2012 at Smorgasburg Williamsburg, the sprawling open-air Saturday food market in Brooklyn, right by the East River. With its savvy mix of flavor profiles — tofu tinga, Japanese curry beef, and spicy tuna tacos, sesame oil slaw, poke nachos — Takumi Taco has since grown to occupy a flagship location in Chelsea Market and an outpost at Citi Field.

Cauliflower Al Pastor tacos are on the menu at Takumi Taco in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Owner (and Roslyn High School graduate) Derek Kaye saw an opportunity when longtime Delicacies Deli owner Jimmy Zanfardino had a space within the deli available. Outfitted with seating and benefiting from the deli’s foot traffic, it felt right to Kaye. Although he’s keeping deli hours, he’s planning to stay open later and add beer, wine and margaritas.

For Takumi Taco, the challenges of suburbia revolve around taste buds. “The biggest difference we’ve seen is a tone-down in the spice level out here,” noted Kaye. “The amount of sriracha in the spicy mayo, the togarashi,” all needed adjusting.

Kaye is not alone in experiencing a learning curve. In general, “There’s some adjustment each way. City folks needs to learn how to treat the Long Island customer,” said Durkin. “Customers need to accept the New York City prices, without complaint.”

Axelrod thinks most TBar diners understand the arrangement: They are being given a city experience without having to travel. But there are others who disagree. For Robin Silverberg of East Williston, “TBar’s prices are really high.” She continued, “And while everybody’s prices have gone up, $37 spaghetti and meatballs and $56 sea bass are just too much.”

Bill Bruckman, owner of Pietro’s, moved his popular Manhattan restaurant into what was formerly The Jolly Fisherman in November 2023, and he feels “different and higher expectations” can lead to confusion. “In the city, it’s an a la carte menu. Though we have huge portions, there’s some pushback to that style of service.” The bill adds up quickly. And for newcomers who are perhaps expecting mainstream versions of classic dishes, bone marrow — sauced cheesy shells or chicken parmigiana topped with Grana Padano instead of mozzarella may be something of a surprise.

Pietro's in Roslyn serves twists on classic dishes such as pasta in a bone marrow sauce, or clams on the half shell with lobster tail and shrimp. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Talks about Long Island began probably 10 years ago, Bruckman recalled, and when the pandemic hit, “We started to get phone calls to do client dinners at their houses — and we had no idea how many people of our clientele lived on Long Island. So we said, ‘Let’s do it.’ ”

Pietro’s, established in 1932 and originally owned by Bruckman’s grandfather and cousins, is the oldest city restaurant to try its luck in Roslyn. Lunch hours are planned for the spring, as well as a prix-fixe menu, which could be a boon for nearby industrial parks and office buildings. “It’s a trendy, hipper kind of scene now, and restaurants are part of that,” said Bruckman. Such turnover pushes places like Pietro’s and Il Mulino to evolve.

The chicken parm at Pietro's in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Il Mulino’s Galligan finds the city clientele more corporate, while Long Island is more family-driven. Also, “a lot more fish. We serve more branzino, salmon, Dover sole, not a lot of steak, and more half-portions of pasta.” More has changed since 2004, according to Galligan. “The children of our original customers are now our customers, for one thing.”

Il Mulino has a new look for its 20th anniversary this year. The clubby feel and dim lighting have given way to bright-orange banquettes, modern chandeliers and a sparkly bar.

What is unchanged, however, is the real reason folks continue to come — white-glove service, a bevy of irresistible starters — from spicy eggplant to bruschetta to wedges of Parmigiano-Reggiano — as well as gigantic portions of pasta and protein (at gigantic prices) and the post-meal grappa service.

As a way “to make the Il Mulino experience more price-sensitive,” there’s now a weeknight prix-fixe ($58) of classics such as Caesar salad, baked clams, veal Milanese, risotto cacio e pepe, a New York strip steak pizzaiola and zabaglione with biscotti, as well as a Sunday supper deal ($52).

More expensive signatures include the whole roasted Dover sole, chicken or veal Parmesan, flattened and on the bone, or the langoustines over risotto. The formula seems to be working. “Barriers have been broken since the renovation. We’re not just an occasion place anymore,” Galligan said. “It’s livelier now, more people eating at the bar — we never had a mixology program before, now we do — and walk-ins.”

Debby Fleischer of Bayside is pleased to see changes. “The food is delicious, so it’s good that they renovated, and the prix-fixe options — very smart.”

Next on the horizon for the town: more big-deal openings. Marc Spitzer, chef-partner at BondSt (sushi and celebs) in Manhattan for nearly 24 years and a Plainview native, is scheduled to open Kodomo this summer. He and partner Noam Shemel, who lives in Roslyn, found a former Italian restaurant in a historic building “vacant for 15 to 20 years,” just behind Roslyn Landing, a new, upscale condo community where a three-bedroom runs upward of $1.375 million.

Kodomo, also Japanese in concept, will showcase the fare — skewers of miso-glazed sea bass, truffle tuna pizza, crispy rice, hot eel dice roll — that made BondSt a New York City hot spot. Finished after a gut renovation that’s been years in the making, it will feature a 110-seat restaurant with patio seating. “It’s this ‘let’s just go to the source’ mentality,” Spitzer said of being in Roslyn, surrounded by his city clientele. “Plus, you want to be somewhere beautiful, not just a Friday, Saturday night spot.”

Roslyn Landing is one of two amenity-driven condo communities that are part of the town’s recent draw. “They are attracting younger people who work in the city, love this lifestyle and want to live out here. They want those kinds of dining experiences here, too,” Durkin said.

Among those protective of the picturesque appeal of Roslyn is Emily Kavouris, who lived in Manhasset for 17 years before moving to Roslyn Landing. Although she likes the proximity to restaurants, she is concerned about potential noise.

Alina Uzilov, president of the Roslyn Country Club Civic Association, is “thrilled” about the influx of NYC restaurants into Roslyn for what it does to boost the economy, add jobs and keep the competition healthy between venues.

This influx, however, has brought higher costs for dining out. Fleischer spends most of her restaurant dollars in Roslyn, Great Neck and Manhattan. “I’m just not impressed by all these fancy restaurants trying to outdo each other,” she said. “And I’m not paying $16 for string beans.”

The mayor is nonplused. “We’re creating demand by creating more apartment buildings in Roslyn. We’ve attracted high-end businesses to come to see it,” Dunkin said. “We’ve become a destination.”

The cherry on top? “Van Leeuwen Ice Cream is coming, too,” he said. “They’ve been approved by the board.”

Red and white sangria with sesame feta at Kyma in Roslyn, which also has a Manhattan location. Credit: Stephanie Foley

THE REVERSE COMMUTE

It’s difficult to imagine the Roslyn food scene without Limani and Kyma, two magnificent Greek restaurants that serve fish by the pound in stylish surroundings. And in a twist on the city-to-suburb migration, Limani and Kyma established restaurants in Manhattan in 2014 and 2018, respectively. A little back story for you: The “upscale Greek” concept was spearheaded by Costas Spiliadis with the 1997 opening of Estatorio Milos in Manhattan, explained Reno Christou, managing partner at Kyma. “Everyone in the Greek industry owes [Spiliadis] a big debt of gratitude,” he said.

Tunisian grilled octopus with capers and peppers at Limani in Roslyn. Credit: Stephanie Foley

Christou’s own lineage started at Milos; he was a founder of Limani and now is at Kyma, just down the road and a more laid-back, beachy homage to upscale Greek food. “Roslyn was east enough to be a suburb, but west enough so that most people were still commuting into the city every day,” said Christou. “The city sensibility was there. The Americana [shopping mall] was a block away, which had every Fifth Avenue store in it. The money, the demographics, it made sense outside of Manhattan.” Whether you go upscale at Limani or more casual at Kyma, you will find extraordinary Mediterranean fish such as the delicate, flaky royal dorado and meaty, firm fagri as well as more familiar red snapper, swordfish and Dover sole. The octopus at Kyma is unforgettable, beaten and softened, then marinated in red-wine vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns. The lamb and chicken meatballs, the gigante beans, the sautéed shrimp in tomato and feta sauce at Limani — showstoppers all.

THE DETAILS

FELICE 1382 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-933-5432 | felicerestaurants.com

IL MULINO 1042 Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-621-1870 | imny.com

KODOMO 1401 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; scheduled to open this summer

KYMA 1446 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-621-3700 | kymarestaurants.com

LIMANI 1043 Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-869-8989 | limani.com

PIETRO’S 25 Main St., Roslyn; 516-407-3255 | pietroslongisland.com

TAKUMI TACO 1356 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-484-5070 | takumitaco.com

TBAR  1363 Old Northern Blvd., Roslyn; 516-277-2466 | tbar.li

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