On a recent warm Wednesday evening, a hunter’s moon hung so heavily in the sky it threatened to crush the tiny building beneath it, a 1930 brick one that could ill afford the extra weight. The structure sits on a stretch of Glen Head Road, its main competition an auto repair shop and its heyday many moons ago, when it was known as something called The Dribble Inn. It’s the last place where you’d expect to find the future of Long Island dining, and yet there it is.
Or so I found myself hoping after a couple of dinners at a three-month-old, 37-seat restaurant called Season. On an island in which too many places — even in the present climate — promise far more than they can possibly deliver, Joe Marchisotta’s restaurant is the opposite. He could be trumpeting his 25-plus years spent in the kitchens of some of NYC’s finest establishments, but he doesn’t. He could be serving up the same fancy dishes he once concocted, but he doesn’t. And of course he could be opening his first restaurant in a marquee location, not on a dull stretch of Glen Head Road, not in an old brick building whose facade would give speakeasies a run for their money. But he has, and he’s never been happier.
"I can’t explain it," he said at a table in the small dining room. "I just really love it here. I feel connected with this building, my staff, with everything." It feels like his early days at the Culinary Institute of America, when he would rush back to the Progresso Deli & Pork Store in Queens — his dad Paulie’s place — filled with excitement over his latest discovery. He laughs now at the memory. "I was like, a roux? What? You can thicken a sauce with just fat and flour?"
When the pandemic brought an abrupt end to his Gotham career and the commute from East Hills, Marchisotta began cooking dinners for friends on the Island, many of whom "either could never afford to go to the places I’d worked, or couldn’t get in." Soon, he was running a thriving takeout business called Chef Joe 2. "That’s what funded Season."
Although currently only open for dinner, and just four evenings a week — a Sunday brunch launches this month — word-of-mouth has already generated serious business. Diners are raving about Marchisotta’s open-faced short rib ravioli ($37), in which pasta sheets are layered with tender shreds of bourguignon-like beef, along with fava beans, wild mushrooms, goat cheese and caramelized onions.
As with much of the menu, Marchisotta deftly calls on his fine dining past to bring comfort to the present. His Chilean sea bass, grilled on a cedar plank and served atop a round couscous cake surrounded by squiggles of yellow tomato romesco ($41), aims for satisfying over revelatory, but ends up making the satisfying revelatory. Marchisotta uses grapefruit segments to delight you with asparagus salad ($16), gochujang to brighten seared salmon ($37), and Banyuls vinegar to coax you into his Sicilian caprese ($17).
Most importantly, he’s cooking with eagerness, like he’s still that kid brimming with excitement, rushing home to wow his dad. Paulie is long gone, but his recipe for meatballs ($10) lives on, and Marchisotta’s past looms over the proceedings — literally, an old Progresso sign hangs over the kitchen door. "I’m sorry," he said, tearing up at the mention of his father, "there’s just so much heart in what I do." But he’s also not sorry. "It’s important to me for people to feel how much love I have on that plate."
At first, it’s surprising to discover so much heart and love within Marchisotta, concealed as it is by a chef’s unexceptional, strictly-business exterior. A moment later, it makes perfect sense. The same is true of his little restaurant on Glen Head Road.
Season is at 133 Glen Head Rd. in Glen Head, 516-962-9330, seasonbistro.com. Opening hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday through Tuesday.