Claudio’s of Greenport Returns

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Same name with a new vibe–

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.

Unmatchable Spirit

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here


Once a whaling village, Greenport has been making a splash in the beverage industry. For beer, there’s the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and now, for spirits, there’s a new kid on the block, Matchbook Distilling Co. The team behind this “bespoke distillery and incubator” is changing the dynamic of the spirits industry, one label at a time.

Envision walking into a 38,000-square-foot warehouse, where imagination guides your spirit, literally, including a wall of straight botanicals, where people can come in and create their own blend. Bars and restaurants, farmers, start-ups, and brands — everyone from the eager-to-learn novice to industry experts looking to stretch their creativity has an opportunity to create a tailor-made libation. This includes the finest of flavors and bottle branding.

“When you think about what distilling is, you are literally capturing flavor in a super concentrated form. You’re building flavor and then taking it out by separating it from everything else,” said Leslie Merinoff Kwasnieski.

She and Brian Kwasnieski are the company’s co-founders. They have a history of innovative start-ups together. In their college town of Burlington, VT, they founded Broke in Burlington, a company that listed drink and event specials at local bars and restaurants.

Eventually, through establishing close relationships with local businesses, the company gained popularity among the public and grew to aid in spirits promotions for several college towns. It was from that Merinoff Kwasnieski was hired by William Grant & Sons to take the lead in sales of Sailor Jerry Rum, where she proudly closed a million cases.

From this benchmark success, she then ventured to The Noble Experiment NYC, a Brooklyn-based craft distillery. It was here that she came to understand the hardships faced by small businesses, as giant companies continue to control the market, she said.

“It’s the same thing again and again. We want to push people to think outside of the box,” she explained. “What I wanted to do with Matchbook was create a launch pad for people to create the spirits that they wanted to create without compromising, in a simpler space.” It was also during this time, working for The Noble Experiment NYC, that she fell in love with Greenport. Taking the ferry allowed her to admire the waterfront view of this port town. Between the wineries and the agriculture, it all clicked. And so, after two months of trial research and development, Matchbook Distilling Co. was born, with an official opening at the end of June.

Clients can be as hands on as they’d like or entrust the team to run free with the project. Paul Monahan is the chief marketing officer. He was once a global ambassador for Sailor Jerry Rum and winner of Wine Enthusiast’s Mixologist/Brand Ambassador of the Year in 2012. Nancy Cameron Duffy is creative director alongside her business partner and husband Josh Duffy, director of fabrication.

“It’s so much more than a logo. It’s the liquid, the full label, the full concept . . . For brands specifically, we want people to have a really good idea on what their marketing and sales strategy is going to be,” Merinoff Kwasnieski said. “We prioritize client tradition, agriculture, and anthropology of making spirits.”

The men behind the crafting are the chief of science and distilling, Matthew Spinozzi, and head of production and development, Dean Babiar. Spinozzi holds a master’s of science degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland. Babiar graduated from the University of Maryland, where he studied agricultural economics. Babiar has worked as a winemaker, focusing on old-school methods across five continents, landing the role as head winemaker at Jamesport Vineyards.

“The best thing I’ve ever done is create this team . . . everyone plays so well off of each other,” Merinoff Kwasnieski said. “When they have great ideas, being able to have them come to fruition has been one of the best experiences of my life. It’s so great that we get to be together all the time, in Greenport, that is such a stunning and likeminded setting for this to happen.”

Clients have full ownership rights and Matchbook proudly carries the craft bottles at its sister property and boutique hotel, the Lin Beach House, for the public to enjoy. For roughly $6000 a year, with prices varying with ingredients and order size, once a project is in the works, clients can partake in year-round programming, including private events, classes, tastings, and dinners. Included in the warehouse space is also a front-of-the-house coffee bar to work, host meetings, meet friends, and indulge in a fuller experience.

Live Energized

Never have I ever inhaled salt by the gram full — until now. Sound View in Greenport is the home of a halotherapy spa, Salt Live Energized, that pumps enough salt into the air that you can see it accumulating on surfaces. It’s enough white dust to make Tony Montana dart for the door. If that sounds intimidating — because who in their right mind would want to inhale the condiment equivalence of chalk? — the pink walls and view of the sound are guaranteed to ease any initial discomfort.

As I sat back in a chair that seemed tailored to my body, I had a welcome box of some tissues, a water bottle, BOSE headphones, and an iPod with soothing melodies. My 45-minute session flew by as the particles fell onto my skin and cleared my lungs. The waves crashed beyond the glass in front of me as I recalled the benefits: increased red blood cell production, cleaner air passages, better lung function, stimulates cell growth, balanced skin pH, and reduction of inflammation, to name a few. Sure, the initial inhale was jarring as particles went up my nose and down my throat, but in the end, I left feeling better than when I first walked in. Which is the whole point, right?

Carlos Lamarche, founder of Salt Live Energized, found me on Instagram (power of the post, people!) and was wonderful enough to answer some key questions:

What year did you start this?

We started with the idea in 2017, and opened our first Salt Live Energized in Sound View Greenport as a pop-up to experiment. We are opening our spa in SoHo, NYC this August.

How did you come up with the idea?

My husband and I both love the beach. We live a lot of the year on Fire Island and we truly consider it home. Two years ago, on a healthy living quest, we converted our pool to salt water. We could not believe the difference. It made us calmer, our skin smoother, and we slept better.

Totally by chance, the next day we saw an article in the New York Times on halotherapy, and then another in Vogue. We did our research and learned quickly that many “salt caves” don’t actually do anything for you. Without adding dry salt to the air, the respiratory system doesn’t get any benefits whatsoever.

So, we set out to spread the word about real halotherapy and to upgrade the experience from a “salt cave” to a relaxing spa. Once we got started, we kept going. Later this summer, we’re launching our own line of salt body scrubs and bath salts, in addition to the NYC location.

What’s the top reason you recommend clients book this experience?

Well, you filter your water. You eat organic. Yet you breathe over 30 pounds of polluted urban air every day. It toxifies your body. Left alone, it can take years off of your life. As the World Health organization declared last year, “Air pollution is the new tobacco.” Salt’s halotherapy is as essential for health and wellness as eating well and working out.

Experience this unique session yourself. Visit and follow @SaltLiveEnergized.


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Hard Nocks: It Will Knock You Out

Growing up, my professional athletic aspirations in high school were equally divided between becoming a Rip Curl-sponsored surfer or a kick boxer — both of which never came to fruition, of course. The latter came after I joined a local gym where amateur boxers trained. Two of them taught women’s kickboxing lessons. Before and after my hour-long class, I’d sit around the boxing ring and watch the men spar. I became enamored, not by their physiques, but by the intense power and strength that was displayed.

During the three years of my membership at that gym, I went, on average, three times a week all 52 weeks of the year. I couldn’t get enough. Then college came along, and both my surfboard and boxing gloves began to collect dust.

That’s why meeting Jeff Nockelin of the School of Hard Nocks in Greenport was a welcome challenge after all of these years. I arrived at his boxing studio to a scene right out of Rocky (which happens to be both of our favorite boxing movie), with basic workout gear in the front and a full-size boxing ring in the back, and padded flooring between. It was nothing fancy but everything that was necessary.

Nockelin, an amateur fighter, who turned down two offers to go pro and once worked with three-time World Champion Greg Haugen, was exactly what I’d expect: an intimidating and beastly boxer’s build and an old-school, rough-around-the-edges, but friendly personality. The visual definition of what you’d want in a trainer.

Knowing my prior training, he gave me an extended 45-minute session spanning boxing, core, cardio, and resistance training — or what he calls Super High Intensity Training — to get “Fighter Fit.”

Basic dumbbell lifts, planks, and sit-ups were incorporated between the more difficult versa climber (like a StairMaster on steroids) and prowler push sled (like running on steroids) with hard beats playing in the background for motivation. To work out my back, Nockelin instructed me through a more primal exercise, sledgehammering a tire. Once the adrenaline kicked in, I was unstoppable: swing, hit, jump, switch; swing, hit, jump, switch. By the end of my reps I had nearly passed out.

Then I was led into the ring — “Eye of The Tiger” playing in my head — where Nockelin handed me gloves and guided me through several choreographed boxing movements. Jab, cross, hook, uppercut, duck, and weave, all around the ring. Small motions, fast repetition, little rest times in between, burning fat while building lean muscle.

Nockelin got into boxing after training with his older cousin as a teenager, and has stayed true to it ever since. “I’ve spent a lot of years and have been through a lot of experiences putting my workouts together. I really have a passion for what I do because I’ve seen in myself and in my clients the benefits and great quality of life that comes from it,” he said. “I sculpt people’s bodies to look amazing and work even better.”

By the end of it all, I nearly threw up from pushing myself so hard. As truly exhausting as it was, I felt stronger physically and mentally. It was a feeling I had almost forgotten but deeply missed, the feeling of being an empowered badass.

Sessions are 30 minutes each at $40 a session. Since each session is guaranteed to knock you out, Nockelin recommends going with the 30 minutes before requesting a full hour.

The School of Hard Nocks is located at 74365 Main Road in Greenport, in the back, left corner. It is open Monday through Saturday by appointment only. Visit, call 631-873-9875, or email


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Vintage, Darling

(This article first appeared in the November 8, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)

trying on dresses at The Times Vintage


More than just something to wear, vintage clothing has the power to take us back in time. Every decade is defined by a fashion trend and nowadays vintage is the new vogue.

No one knows that more than Houston native Elizabeth Sweigart. In 2013, and at only 23 years old, Sweigart opened up The Times Vintage in Greenport, a store specializing in everything vintage.

After spending five years in New York City, Sweigart migrated to the North Fork needing a change. “Somehow Greenport seemed doable for me — it wasn’t the Hamptons, it wasn’t Shelter Island, it was cute and quaint but not too cookie cutter,” Sweigart described.

Her admiration for vintage clothing began when she was young, frequenting garage sales with her mother and observing her grandmother’s impeccable seamstress skills. “I used to get into my grandmother’s closet all the time,” Sweigart reminisced. “She had a really funky pair of yellow wooden shoes with a crazy cut-out heel that I loved prancing around in.” Now, her own closet is uniquely comprised of 90 percent second-hand clothing. Except the shoes, of course, “simply because the old ones wear out too fast.”

The store’s name honors the property’s newsworthy roots — the original tenant was The Suffolk Times.

“It seemed so fitting for a vintage shop to house things of the past in a place that previously chronicled events in time,” said Sweigart.

In the past four years, thousands of items have been sorted through. People tend to bring in cherished items so that others can make use of them. Best sellers are the women’s clothing, jewelry, and vinyl records. What you won’t find in the shop are industrial items, linens, china, or anything decrepit.

Price is negotiated based on the sellers’ needs and the resale value in shop. “It gets tricky and honestly that’s my least favorite part of the job. I’m learning as I go — and boy there is a lot to learn! Which is why my job is never boring!”

Sweigart still remembers her favorite piece that was sold. “A ’60s Marimekko black and white three-piece suitcase set as seen in ‘Slums of Beverly Hills.'” The backstories are what draws interest in reselling an item and the interesting people that once owned them. As for the Who’s Who of who’s wearing these pieces, you can spot comedian Louis CK in the store from time to time, and recently rocking store-bought ties on the red carpet were Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Rockwell.

Sweigart enjoys the likeness of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, her idea of the quintessential role model of both gentle beauty and hard-working independence. The Times Vintage is a time capsule of yesterday with a promising leading role in tomorrow.

The Times Vintage is open year-round, Friday through Monday from 11 AM to 6 PM, but customers can schedule private appointments Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On December 1, they will be collaborating with First & South for the annual Prohibition Party — spend $20 or more at the store and receive a free drink ticket. Also look for The Times Vintage on December 9 at Borghese Vineyards as part of artist Kara Hoblin’s Christmas Market.

Visit the store at 429 Main Street in Greenport. Call 631-477-6455, go to, or follow @TheTimesVintage.