The Riverhead Project’s owner publicly introduced the eatery’s new executive chef at a dinner celebrating the much vaunted Riverhead restaurant’s third anniversary Tuesday.
Read all about it at northforker.com
On a weekend typically reserved for fireworks and family gatherings, restaurant owners are usually hunkered down at their businesses, trying to make the most of the busy summer holiday.
But this particular holiday weekend, Riverhead proprietors put their own livelihoods, and competition, aside for an afternoon to support one of their own.
Friends and fellow downtown restaurant owners banded together Sunday for the first of many fundraisers to help Athens Grill rebuild after it was destroyed in a fire a little more than a week ago.
The barbecue lunch, called “Rebuild Athens,” at The Riverhead Project restaurant saw dozens show up in support for Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos and his family. Trays of food were donated from neighboring eateries, including Blue Duck Bakery, Digger O’Dell’s, Meeting House Creek Inn, Crooked Ladder, Cody’s BBQ and Grill and many more.
“It’s like the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when everybody comes together,” event organizer and Riverhead Project owner, Dennis McDermott, said of the event. Guests were not asked to pay for a meal, however nearly all donated for Athens Grill’s reconstruction efforts.
“It’s not even about the money; it’s to show John that we are here for him,” Mr. McDermott said.
“I was actually surprised so many came together,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said. “Riverhead has really shown me good faith.”
In 2004, Mr. Mantzopoulos took ownership of Athens Grill, expanding and upgrading the former gyro joint into an elegant, Greek restaurant. For almost 10 years he has been a part of Riverhead’s downtown revitalization efforts and currently serves on downtown Riverhead’s Business Improvement District’s board of the directors.
“John would always help anybody and now it’s his turn,” said Ray Pickersgill, the BID president, adding the outpouring of compassion is characteristic of the downtown business community. “They are all in competition, but they are all members of the business district.
“People here like to help others when they’re down.”
Mr. Mantzopoulos said he was relieved no one was injured by the fire, and that he is looking forward to re-opening.
“It’s too early to say what color the walls will be, but we will rebuild,” he told the crowd Sunday. “Hopefully in six months from now I’ll see you back at my tables.”
They’re among the most popular female entertainers in the world today.
One, a spunky 27-year-old writer, claimed a best actress Golden Globe award this year for her work on the popular HBO series she created herself.
The other, a Grammy Award-winning chart-topper of the same age, was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.
Lena Dunham and Lady Gaga are two influential, young, feminist entertainers — and they both spent part of this week on the North Fork.
Oh, yes. Music legend Billy Joel, Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton and Golden Globe-nominated actress Cameron Diaz were here, too.
This may not be the Hamptons, but it felt like it for star-struck fans who spotted their favorite entertainers this week at restaurants and filming locations in their hometown.
The star-studded week actually began to develop last summer, when Ms. Dunham spent a weekend at the North Fork home of a “Girls” director, two of the show’s producers said.
“She really liked the North Fork, so she thought, ‘Let’s shoot an episode here,’ ” executive producer Ilene Landress said. “We’re really thrilled to be out here. It’s gorgeous.”
After scouting trips to the area this spring, the “Girls” crew, with part-time local resident Jesse Peretz behind the camera, filmed for parts of the past two weeks at a waterfront home in East Marion, dockside at Claudio’s restaurant and at The Market on Front Street in Greenport Village. Filming finally wrapped this Tuesday, when the series’ four title characters shot scenes in the heart of the village in front of a group of local fans, who were granted a front row view of all the action.
“It’s crazy that they’re filming here; it’s so awesome,” said Danielle Rodger of Greenport. “I can’t believe they’re just sitting right there in front of us.
“It’s nice that they’re not too protective of the space and we can just sit here with our children and watch them film,” she added.
And a trip to the North Fork was a welcome break from New York City for the cast and crew of the show.
“It’s not vacation because we’re still working, but it feels like vacation to us,” said “Girls” associate producer Ericka Naegle. “It’s a nice break from the city. It’s never a bad thing when the monitors are set up right next to a harbor.”
HBO spokeswoman Tobe Becker said the scenes are being filmed for an episode in season three that will air in 2014. According to a tweet from one of the film’s producers, the North Fork-themed episode is the seventh of the season.
The “Girls” team wasn’t alone in taking a break from the city to film on the East End this week.
Ms. Upton, Ms. Diaz and actress Leslie Mann — whose husband, Judd Apatow, coincidentally co-wrote the “Girls” episode filming here this week — were shooting scenes in Quogue for the upcoming film “The Other Woman.” The Nick Cassavetes-helmed picture is due for release in 2014.
The popular trio of actresses took a break from filming last Thursday night to have dinner with Lady Gaga, whose boyfriend has a role in the movie, at Jerry and the Mermaid restaurant on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead.
Restaurant owner Jerry Dicecco said the stars were celebrating Ms. Upton’s 21st birthday that night.
“It was a really great bunch of people — they had a lot of fun, enjoyed the food and they were really nice to me and my staff,” Mr. Dicecco said. “It was great for the restaurant and for downtown Riverhead itself because of all of the changes that are being made in town in general. It was really nice to see such a famous group of people come in and patronize our small businesses. We were just really proud to serve them.”
Public relations pro Nicole Starr Castillo of WordHampton said the same group of stars also dined at The Riverhead Project. She added that the “Girls” crew enjoyed a meal at Noah’s in Greenport last Monday night.
Mr. Joel sailed into Greenport Wednesday afternoon on his boat, “Alexa.” He docked and shopped at Preston’s.
The celebrity sightings certainly made it feel like the Hamptons here, but one line of dialogue from the “Girls” episode helps to put things back in perspective.
In one scene, the character Shoshanna, played by actress Zosia Mamet, gets off a bus, steps out near Claudio’s and says to her friends, “Wow, I can’t believe we’re here in the Hamptons.”
Marnie, played by Allison Williams, quickly corrects her.
“No, this is the North Fork,” Marnie says. “It’s actually very different.”
The Riverhead Project has a new executive chef and will debut its revamped, seafood-centric menu later this week.
Roy Wohlars, the former executive chef at Montauk’s South Edison, signed on as head chef of the downtown Riverhead restaurant just days ago, owner Dennis McDermott said.
Mr. Wohlars said the new menu, set to be unveiled Tuesday, is “75 percent seafood.”
“We’ll use the local waters of Long Island including oysters, clams, sea scallops and striped bass,” he said. “When the local farmers start producing vegetables those will also be on the menu.”
Chicken and duck make up the rest of the 2-year-old restaurant’s latest offerings. Menu items of note include a Szechuan-infused version of chicken and waffles and a smoked blue fish pierogi with house made crema, dill and pickled ramps.
Mr. McDermott, who formerly owned The Frisky Oyster in Greenport, is optimistic that Mr. Wohlars’ presence will further enhance revitalization efforts in downtown Riverhead.
“The Frisky Oyster definitely changed the landscape of dining in Greenport and the North Fork,” he said. “When the Riverhead Project came to Riverhead two years ago it did the same thing, and the addition of Roy to the restaurant really puts Riverhead on the map.”
Downtown Riverhead is on the verge of getting some more parking spaces.
The Town Board is expected to approve a resolution Tuesday authorizing Supervisor Sean Walter to sign an agreement with the owner of The Riverhead Project restaurant, which is under construction, that would remove chain-link fences blocking a parking lot that runs behind the restaurant and a neighboring strip of stores.
The lot stretches between Maple and Union avenues, which run parallel to each other, on the north side of East Main Street.
It has been fenced off on both sides ever since the Chase bank building, which now houses the restaurant, on the corner of Maple and East Main Street closed about two years ago.
The lot is part of the former bank property.
“This will open up parking for East Main Street,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “All those stores there never had parking.”
He said the lot will add about 50 parking stalls.
The bank building is currently being renovated into The Riverhead Project restaurant by Dennis McDermott, who previously owned the Frisky Oyster in Greenport, and is expected to open soon.
Mr. McDermott, who is leasing the property, has expressed a willingness to open the lot up to the public at-large, and not just restaurant customers.
The resolution before the Town Board at Tuesday’s meeting calls for the parking to be sublet to the town for five years, commencing July 1, 2011 and ending on Dec. 31, 2015. The sub-lease also has an option that would allow the town to either renew the lease for five more years or to purchase the property.
The proposed agreement would require the town to pay $5,000 for 2011 and $5,000 plus an increase commensurate with the Consumer Price Index increase starting on July 1, 2012 and continuing in subsequent years.
The town also would be required to repave and re-stripe the parking lot and to maintain it at its own cost.