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'Gatsby on the Ocean' opens to wave reviews at Jones Beach

Gatsby on the Ocean, the oceanfront dining venue

Gatsby on the Ocean, the oceanfront dining venue at Jones Beach, officially opened to the public Friday. The newly renovated former Marine Dining Room at the West Bathhouse was converted into a restaurant, bar and catering facility.  Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

Cocktails in bathing suits anyone? Jones Beach State Park now welcomes swimmers and the more formally attired to the terraces on the West Bathhouse’s second floor, as well as to the new restaurant designed to evoke the mischievous glamour of the Roaring Twenties.

That was an era master developer Robert Moses knew well; he opened the Marine Dining Room in 1931, now home to “Gatsby On The Ocean,” two years after finishing the expansive Beaux Arts park in Wantagh that celebrated the public — and has been celebrated by the public ever since.

“We had magnificent views; now we have a magnificent restaurant and catering facility,” said George Gorman, Long Island regional director, Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, at Friday's official opening.

The Marine Dining Hall, with its soaring ceiling, featuring a skylight and buttressed by wide, dark wood beams, two summers ago was returned to its original grandeur by removing what the nonprofit Preservation Long Island delicately called “insensitive alterations.”

Those modifications included slicing the 5,500 square foot space in two and hiding the skylight and beams under a dropped ceiling. By 2004, a Friendly’s restaurant served customers there, the group said.

Disappointed by the performance of the first concessionaire it chose for the former Marine Dining Room, the parks department brought in J & B Restaurant Partners, whose president, Joe Vitrano, said he immediately hit on the Gatsby theme when he walked in. Attempts to reach the previous concessionaire, The Landing, were not immediately successful.

The office formerly used by Robert Moses has been turned into a bride’s dressing room; its balcony, overlooking the Atlantic, might prove an appealing backdrop for photographs, officials said.

Across the hall, the conference room Moses used was reimagined as a groom’s area. Overlooking the pool, it includes a bar.

As part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s plan to invest $900 million of public and private funds in state parks over 10 years, Jones Beach has been undergoing $65 million of renovations.

Though the East Bathhouse has been closed since 2009 due to budget cuts, visitors can look forward to other attractions, including a zip line that should open this summer. Improvements for the West Games area, that include adding pickleball and restoring the miniature golf course, known for its Long Island landmarks, should begin this autumn.  

Depending on the weather, the Gatsby, which opened on Memorial Day with a limited menu, will try to stay open throughout the year, Vitrano said, partly by offering St. Patrick’s Day and Super Bowl parties, for example, as well as serving as a catering hall for everyone from brides to corporate executives.

Looking around at the “spectacular location,” he said, “We are proud to be the caretaker.”

Gatsby On The Ocean, now open for dinner, plans to add lunch shortly.

  • Chef Andrew Andrew Helliwell trained at the Savoy in London and most recently spent a decade heading the kitchen at The Mansion at Glen Cove.
  • The menu focuses on uncomplicated seafood, small plates and sandwiches and features state-grown and produced food.
  • Elegant combinations include: steamed Littleneck clams with roasted tomatoes, lemon thyme and croutons, baby shrimp crostini and mussels with white wine, garlic, basil and butter. Entrees hit both land and sea, from lobster ravioli and pan-seared salmon with Dijon-tarragon sauce to a bone-in strip steak with potato-cippolini hash and asparagus.
  • Gatsby's version of a lobster roll, blended with mayonnaise, is $26.50. Appetizers start at $11, and entrees cost between $23.50 and $26.50.
  • The restaurant seats about 260 people.
  • The bride’s dressing room, formerly Robert Moses’ office, has a balcony overlooking the ocean, ideal for photographs.
  • Across the hall, the groom’s room looks out over the pool, and has a bar; coming soon, a large TV, suitable for sports — and corporate presentations.

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