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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

In a little-known chapter of New York City’s history, the name of police officer Phillip Cardillo is spoken in hushed, revered whispers. Though he was tragically killed in the line of duty back in 1972, the burning embers of his memory are still fanned by a passionate few who wish to finally obtain for the fallen hero the elusive recognition that he truly deserves.

At their Oct. 8 meeting in Mineola, the Nassau County-based Association of Retired Police Officers (ARPO) held a heartfelt ceremony, as both Cardillo as well as the driven NYPD detective who has fought for justice in his name for the past four decades, were honored as the true heroes that they are.

In what was their last free meeting at the Community United Methodist Church of East Norwich, the East Norwich Civic Association presented a money saving/energy saving program. It was presented by Marriele Robinson of the Homeowner Support PowerUp Communities group, an outreach of the L.I. Progressive Party. She came to offer free energy evaluations of homes to make them more energy efficient, which will save money.

She said Poor Richard’s Almanac promises it to be very cold this winter, and this is a way to plug up your energy leaks, with both current savings on needed work and through rebates resulting in future savings. After an energy assessment of your home, PowerUp will present you with a report based on their contractor’s assessment, which will outline all the ways you can improve your energy efficiency. The report will include all the potential rebates to reduce the cost of the upgrade which includes the option of financing through PS&G, which will include the monthly payments in your monthly bill.


Sports

A number of awards were given to runners in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich area at the Oct. 18 Oyster Bay Town Supervisor’s 5 Kilometer Run, including 23-year-old Justin Nakrin of Oyster Bay, who finished in 12th place overall and second in the 20-24 age group, and 43-year-old Daniel Valderrama of Oyster Bay, who scored in 17th place overall and second in the 40-44 age group. Maggie Reid of Locust Valley earned first place honors in the 15-19 age group.

The indomitable 81-year-old Nina Jennings of Mill Neck was the oldest woman to finish the run, taking first place honors in the women’s 80-84 age group in 35 minutes, 11 seconds, a pace of 11:19 per mile. She was the fastest of all of the five finishers—male or female—who were 80 years old or more.

The autumn varsity sports season is well on its way in Oyster Bay. Many young athletes have distinguished themselves. Several fine young athletes excelled right out of the gate and were chosen by the Oyster Bay Hight School coaches as Athletes of the Month for October 2014.

Cross Country Coach Kevin Cotter has athletes who consistently qualify for the states. Picking one to honor is a difficult task. Within this impressive group of talented athletes, one stands out: junior Alex Tosi, who recently broke the 17 minute barrier for a 5K course at Bethpage State park with a time of 16:52. This feat has not been accomplished since 2008.


Calendar

Ghastly Grounds

Thursday, October 30

Trick Or Treat

Friday, October 31

Long Island Baroque Ensemble

Sunday, November 2



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
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