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Café Al Dente

Customers at Phil Morizio’s restaurant, Café Al Dente, taste the flavors that evoke his family’s kitchen in the Bronx, as well some of the finest kitchens in Manhattan.

“It’s the food I grew up with. I learned to cook from watching my mother, my aunt, and my grandmother,” said Morizio, who has operated Café Al Dente, an Italian-American restaurant on the corner of Spring and East Main, Oyster Bay, for 20 years.

“When I make the bolognese meat sauce in my kitchen it smells like my house on Sunday mornings when I was growing up,” Morizio said. “My chicken pastina is my grandmother’s recipe. It is one of my biggest sellers.”

Still, the restaurant business was not his original plan. Though he worked his way through high school and college at delis and restaurants, he majored in computers at Queens College. After graduating in 1981 he went to work for IBM.

“I hated it,” Morizio said, so he took a job cooking at the Algonquin Hotel. “We had a lot of celebrities,” but he was most impressed when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was in with her son, John F. Kennedy Jr.

“I had to look out from the window in the kitchen,” Morizio said. She noticed him and waved. He waved back. “She asked for me to come to the table, thanked me for the meal, and introduced me to her son. Of course, I already knew who he was.”

Later he cooked for other hotels and also at Lutece, the legendary Manhattan French restaurant. “I learned so much from the chef-owner,” Andre Soltner. “He gave me some very good advice. He told me to make every customer feel special.”

His first job out of Manhattan was Old Gerlich’s in Glen Head.

Morizio started his own restaurant in 1987, the first Café Al Dente, in Sea Cliff.

“We received good notices from the The Times and Newsday.”

For three years, he operated the Café Pizzazz in Rego Park, but decided to return to Long Island in 1993.

“I looked at 50 different locations but I came to Oyster Bay” where he saw an existing restaurant for sale. “I walked around the town. I fell in love with Oyster Bay. I sat down and wrote a check.

“I have been for happy to be here. I love the customers. I get talking to them and sometimes I almost forget that they have to pay,” he noted with a laugh.

“I use fresh food – wild-caught seafood such as salmon and shrimp. I use organic produce — spinach and mushrooms. I try to use local produce. I use a local clamer and a local seafood market.”

Though he takes pride in his family recipes, “I like to be creative, too. Every night after we close I go on the computer for two hours looking for different recipes.”

Though an Italian-American restaurant, “we like to try different specials — Asian dishes, French entrees,” Morizio said. “In fact, my most popular special was shepherd’s pie,” an Irish dish, he added with a chuckle.

His most popular dish is Rigatoni Fiorentina, with chicken, pasta, fresh mozzarella cheese and organic spinach.

“I have the same menu I started with but I have eight to 10 new special a week,” Morizio said.

Though he looks forward to Mother’s Day, “I don’t have a special menu for holidays. I don’t price gouge. People want the foods they know when they come.”

He says that he tries to keep the prices affordable. “For example, I have a catering menu and I have kept the prices the same. I have a $40 family dinner combo that feeds a family of six. I sell 10 to 30 of those a day.”

Morizio says that his restaurant has done well in Oyster Bay. “In recent years profits have been down with the recession but I have 14 employees with 12 children and I have been able to keep everybody working. My profits will come back when the economy improves.

 “I plan to stay in Oyster Bay until I retire,” Morizio said. “I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

News

If you missed the 6th annual champagne party at Coe Hall in Planting Fields, put it on your calendar for next year, because this is the party of the summer. A total of 175 guests attended, and many of them were in costume, a new addition to the popular champagne party. The always ebullient Henry Joyce, executive director of Planting Fields Foundation, greeted his guests with his date Daphne, a 3-month-old long haired Dachshund, who is a companion for his Great Dane, Lucy.

The 1907 Courthouse building is now known as the Marguerite and Joseph Suozzi Building, marked by a special ceremony held at the North Shore Historical Museum on Sunday, Aug. 3 to a packed house.

“It’s a great day for the Suozzi family and a great day for the museum. We are so grateful for the Suozzi family for this generous donation,” said Brian Mercadante, president of the museum.

Mercandante then gave some history on the building, which was built in 1907 by the Town of Oyster Bay, when Teddy Roosevelt was president and the Gold Coast was in its heyday. He described how it came to be a museum, explaining that Tom Suozzi came up with a plan for redevelopment during his term as mayor of Glen Cove in the 1990s.


Sports

Kevin Mercier, 39, of Oyster Bay, led a large contingent of local runners in the Lynne, Gartner, Dunne & Covello Sands Point Sprint 5 Kilometer Run, held on the grounds of Nassau County’s Sands Point Preserve on Saturday morning, Aug. 9. Mercier was the 18th finisher overall and third in the 35-39 age group with a time of  21 minutes, 7 seconds.

Other local runners winning awards at the Sands Point Preserve were Nicholas Cuddy of Oyster Bay, who earned first place honors in the Clydesdale Weight Division with a time of 25:53, Joanne Gallo of Oyster Bay, who  took home the first place award in the women’s 65-69 age group with a time of 28:11, and Anja Hermann of Oyster Bay, third place woman in the 20-24 age group, who finished in 28:47.

Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay will once again be the site of the Long Island’s premiere multisport event – the 27th annual Runner’s Edge - Town of Oyster Bay Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 23, and the Runner’s Edge – Town of Oyster Bay Junior Triathlon for youngsters ages 8-13 on Sunday, Aug. 24.

The Saturday main event is a “sprint” triathlon, which consists of a half-mile swim in Oyster Bay harbor, a one loop 15 kilometer bike ride over hill and dale through beautiful Oyster Bay, Oyster Bay Cove and Laurel Hollow, and a 5 kilometer run through Mill Neck and Brookville, “up” to Planting Fields Arboretum and “down”to the finish at back at  Roosevelt  Park.


Calendar

Bayville Car Show

Friday, Aug. 22

Junior Triathlon

Sunday, Aug. 24

Historic Church Service And Tour

Sunday, Aug. 24



Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com