On a quiet Wednesday morning in early December a little piece of history changed hands when the second oldest restaurant in Port Washington, The Harbour Inn, was sold for only the second time in thirty years. Frank Tunney, a lifelong restaurant owner, decided to finally retire and sold the business to brother and sister, John and Janette Dillon and Mike Kolinsky.
Frank Tunney, right, outside the historical Harbour Inn, with proud new owners and operators, (l. to r.) john Dillon, Mike Kolinsky and Janette Dillon.
The restaurant, also known to some as Bill's Harbor Inn, is possibly one of the best-kept secrets in Port Washington. Tucked away behind Jo Whites Marina on Bowman's Point, in Manorhaven, it is not easily seen, so if you don't know where it is, you are unlikely to discover it for yourself. A review in the Port Washington News from 1994 said "The Harbor Inn is quite unique; a little piece of Cape Cod on Manhasset Bay. This cozy nook has been on Bowman's Point for almost 80 years and yet it still is not listed on any map". This still holds true today but has not stopped the restaurant being a consistently successful venture for the few who have owned it over the years.
Frank Tunney bought the restaurant in 1990 after his Forest Hills restaurant suffered, in a very short space of time, eight break-ins, five hold ups and a bullet through the window. It was time to get out and he purchased The Harbour Inn from Bill Collucci who had owned the business for 18 years. Frank researched the history of the Harbour Inn and traced it back to the days of prohibition when a man named Earl Fisher owned it. In those days the Port Washington Ferry docked at Bowman's Point and it is alleged that the ferry brought illegal liquor into Manorhaven. According to Frank, after this colorful beginning, the restaurant was owned by Charlie Moraz who then sold it to two brothers, Walter & Matty, who owned and operated it for 18 years under the name of Arnold's Harbor Inn before selling it to Bill Collucci. This history of family ownership has, over 80 years, created a cozy restaurant with an atmosphere of comfort and consistency, a haven in our fast-paced and ever changing society.
Frank is pleased that the new owners will continue to follow the tradition of a family run restaurant. "I know Mike from way back and know he has the background for running a successful restaurant. After meeting Janette and John I could see they were serious buyers and I was happy when they came to me with an offer as I didn't want to sell to someone who would neglect the business or to a flyer." A flyer is Mr. Tunney's term for a person looking to make quick money without the hard work, a recipe for running any business into the ground.
Mike, Janette and John may be new to The Harbour Inn but they are certainly not new to the area or the restaurant business. Mike, born and raised in Port Washington, received his formal training as a chef at the distinguished Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Rhode Island before honing his skills at The Barge, Latitudes and most recently The Inn. He said, "It is great to be back where I started working on the waterfront with a beautiful view of Manhasset Bay". Janette started in the hotel business overseas and has worked locally in Pastabilities, Shish-Kebab and The Inn. John managed the same gourmet food store in Manhasset for nine years and is very happy to now be running his own business said, " the staff, the view and everything else about the Harbour Inn is perfect, we couldn't hope to own a better place". With this much experience the new owners are a formidable team; a point apparently not lost on someone who felt it necessary to dash in and steal a menu. Janette shrugged this strange occurrence off, showing me a menu dated 1974. "Good luck to them", she laughed, "The menu hasn't really changed in over 25 years, except of course for the prices".
Other than Frank not being around, very little has changed; the original menu has been maintained and all the members of staff have continued as before and are being very supportive of the new owners. Some of the customers have been there longer than the staff and that is saying something when you realize one of the waitresses, Deanna, is none other than the daughter of Bill Collucci from the days of "Bill's Harbor Inn".
Whilst keeping the original menu Mike has introduced some new and mouthwatering specials such as duck a l'orange, Chilean sea bass and pork chops stuffed with spinach, mozzarella and mushrooms. In addition the wine list has been expanded and Guinness and Yeunglings are now available on tap from the bar. Deanna continues to be responsible for another long-standing tradition at The Harbour Inn: delicious home-style deserts including such sumptuous offerings as chocolate chiffon pie and rich creamy cheesecake.
The only big change that the new owners have made is that The Harbour Inn is now open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday. This is the first time in over 30 years lunch has been served here and it has received a very good response. So take this additional opportunity to treat yourself to a taste of history and some home-style hospitality and meet the new "family" who are making the old Harbour Inn their new home.
For reservations or more information please call The Harbour Inn on 516 883 3554.