There’s been no classier act on the Long Island restaurant scene than Giorgio Meriggi, who has presided over Stresa in Manhasset since 1992. On Wednesday, the Italian restaurant, which earned four stars in Newsday, will serve its last soufflé, and Meriggi’s 48-year restaurant career will give way to more leisurely pursuits.
Meriggi, 74, born in Piacenza in Northern Italy, immigrated to New York in 1970 and started work in the dining room of Quo Vadis, the swanky Manhattan restaurant co-owned by his uncle Bruno Caravaggi. At Quo Vadis, he waited on luminaries including Frank Sinatra (who would order either rack of lamb or steak Diane accompanied by a bottle Château Lafite Rothschild, followed by a chocolate or Grand Marnier soufflé). He went on to work under Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque before heading east to Long Island to establish (with various partners) Navona in Great Neck, La Rondinella in Woodmere, Il Tulipano in Huntington, Stresa in Manhasset and Stresa East in Woodbury.
The current culinary firmament is dominated by chefs, but when Meriggi was coming up, the restaurant’s maitre d’ was the star of the show. At Stresa, the kitchen was led by the exceedingly talented Ella Rocca (one of Long Island’s first acclaimed female chefs), but it was Meriggi, impeccably turned out, who orchestrated the dining room dance, always making it look like the greatest of pleasures. More often than not, he answered the phone. He also came in early every morning to make the desserts, including those marvelous soufflés. His will be a retirement well-earned.
The Miracle Mile address, however, will enjoy no down time. Thursday it will reopen as Arturo’s, a new incarnation of Antonio D’Anna’s Italian restaurant. The original Floral Park location closed Saturday after 26 years. D’Anna has said that he plans to keep most of Stresa’s staff and menu, which will be supplemented with some Arturo’s specialties.
Arrivederci, Giorgio. E mille grazie.