One of Glen Cove's living landmarks is tentatively set to reopen its doors to the public Tuesday, according to its new owners, who say they've been working to mesh the place's past with a number of upgrades.
As Stango's Restaurant and its matriarch, Stella Stango Cocchiola, grew into their nineties together, the future of the oldest Italian restaurant on Long Island wasn't certain. The location, tucked away on Grove Street, isn't ideal for a restaurant, so without an operator running it as Stango's the property could have been transformed
"When you think it's been around that long, you have to keep it going," said Helene Suozzi, who is taking over as managing partner.
She and her husband, Tom, are part of a group of more than 10 people who have a hand in the restaurant, rechristened Stango's At The Orchard. The name honors the 94-year-old eatery's neighborhood as do the black and white photos inside honor the generations of Italians who called Glen Cove home during the last century.
The walls are adorned with snapshots of life in the city through the decades: Public Works workers shoveling out Grove Street by hand after a snowstorm; St. Rocco's Feast attendents marching through the streets; people giving some love to Butch, the St. Bernard famous for roaming the city during the 1940's, inside Glen Floors (who did the new carpeting); at the entrance, a section devoted to the Stango's and Cocchiola's, who still own the building.
The several dozen already there are only a start - the restaurant will accept submissions of local families' old photographs to add to the collection.
"When it's all said and done, there will be hundreds of pictures telling the story of Glen Cove," said Tom.
He's been actively involved in the renovations but will be shifting his energies toward his bid for County Executive, with Helene taking the lead in the day-to-day operations. She will hostess Friday nights, possibly more.
She said the menu favorites will remain - the pork chops, the pizza, the chilled house red wine - and suggestions are welcome.
The renovations were done with sensitivity to the traditional decor. The wall paneling is still there, a few feet lower than it had been. The photographs occupy the space above. The original bar rail has been refurbished, several of the tables donated to Stella by nuns she knew at a convent on Morgan's Island remain in the dining room and red-and-white checkered tableclothes still cover them.
There will still be a place for Stella, whose name is etched on a small plaque on one of the chairs. She plans to keep up appearances, and her granddaughter will still wait tables. Other family members may serve in other capacities as well.
For Tom, preserving the history is the most important aspect. His own family history is intertwined with the restaurant's; his father's first job after arriving from Italy was busing tables there.
"We want to respect its tradition, but with a new energy," he said.