This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here
Now, it’s more than the ferry that connects the two forks of Long Island. Claudio’s Restaurant of Greenport, an iconic and famed eatery for over 100 years, is now under the same management as Sag Harbor’s trusted establishment, Sen Restaurant, and the newly established K Pasa, co-owned by Tora Matsuoka and business partner Stephen Loffredo of Seasoned Hospitality. The two oversaw the vision of the Claudio’s new owners Perry Weitz, David Weitz, Ian Behar, and Ryan Sasson.
“To us, Claudio’s is an American treasure,” said Sasson, CEO of Strategic Financial Solutions. “We feel a sense of responsibility to the people that have supported Claudio’s through its 149-year run and the Greenport community to keep the legacy alive and to help bring it forward. We all have deep ties and fantastic memories from time spent with our families at Claudio’s over the last 30 years.” The group of friends wasn’t looking for a property to invest in, but upon overhearing about the restaurant’s availability, they jumped on the opportunity.
The property feels completely transformed from the inside, thanks to architects Robert Brown and Tim Schollaert. The usual crew of bikers are welcome as the Harley-Davidson gang brings personality to the wharf, but the ambience is a bit more family friendly these days. Claudio’s restaurant freshened up with a completely renovated first floor with white interiors and the antique bar still intact. The second floor opens with a new bar and lounge, Upstairs at Claudio’s, fitting up to 75 guests with a focal point of a hand-carved ship, complemented by the original Prohibition and 1920s photography on the property.
Loffredo, operating manager of Claudio’s Restaurants, creates a menu that reinterprets classic dishes but takes a lighter approach with homegrown variations, showcasing the natural flavors of the area. “We have Oysters Claudio that takes the heart of flavor from Oysters Rockefeller but with less butter, cream, and a more brightening subtle cheese. A current favorite is our Seared Local Diver Scallops — this dish is simple in its ingredients, recognizable but full of flavor. It includes local diver scallops, snap peas, garlic scapes, and mushrooms.”
While I didn’t have Oysters Claudio or the scallops, I did partake in a menu that was understated and exactly what I wanted on a warm spring day, at the revamped Claudio’s Waterfront, formerly Claudio’s Clam Bar. The retractable pergola is a beautiful addition to the new bar with rope hugging the exterior, adding nautical touches throughout.
Frozen drinks are $12. Choose from the Mudslide, Strawberry Fro-Goni, or a Dark & Stormy, my personal choice. These certainly have a kick to them but are perfectly matched for the price point. From the Raw and Chilled section of the menu arrived peel and eat shrimp, $18, a half-dozen North Fork oysters for $15, and half-dozen little necks, $9. Each came with black pepper mignonette, cocktail sauce, and lemon. They were each great for sharing and fresh without too much of a saltwater taste.
A fun item on the menu was the watermelon feta salad, $12, with tomato, watermelon, feta, olive oil, and sea salt. There’s something very summery about a watermelon dish and this was flavorful, reminiscent of picnics on the beach.
Next was a crispy fish taco with local fish, corn tortilla, chipotle, spicy cabbage, that came as three for $12. It wowed in flavor so much that I’m salivating, yet again, as I think about it. The finale was a lobster roll, $28, with coleslaw and chips, Claudio’s style with tarragon mayo, Connecticut-style butter, and toasted bun. If you don’t have a go-to spot for lobster rolls on the North Fork yet, I’d suggest giving this place a try.
If seafood isn’t your thing but you’re still hungry while exploring the area, there’s some good news. Ten-time world champion pizza maker, owner of Williamsburg Pizza, Nino Coniglio, opened Pizzeria Bacon, right in front of the waterfront. As we shook hands in passing, he reached into a giant pizza box and, without questioning, handed me a grandma slice.
“I hope you like pizza?” he said, wearing a “Pizza Is Happiness” shirt. Without hesitation, I took a bite into possibly the best slice of pizza I have had in years. The crust somehow melted and crunched in my mouth at the same time. “Want more? Sure, ya do. Hey, make sure she gets another slice of whatever she wants before she leaves,” he said. It was a great to-go snack for the ferry ride back, as if I weren’t full enough.