Executive Chef Kevin Garcia is overseeing a rebirth of historic Claudio’s in downtown Greenport.

While many New Yorkers applaud the efforts of healthcare workers and essential personnel during the pandemic, one iconic Long Island restaurant is going further by cooking and donating local cuisine to healthcare workers and the needy on the North Fork. 

The venerable Claudio’s, which is commemorating its 150th anniversary this summer after being sold to a new management group in 2018, is donating food to Community Action Southold Town (CAST), an organization that serves low-income individuals and families on the North Fork.  

“We’re now involved with a variety of community partnerships starting with biweekly and then weekly food donations, giving 100 individual meals every Tuesday from Claudio’s pizza kitchen, including on- and off-menu items such as popular clam chowders, pastas and burgers,” says Tanya Doggwiler, a spokesperson for the restaurant. 

Founded in 1870 in downtown Greenport village on the North Fork, the restaurant was America’s oldest same-family-run restaurant in the nation, staying in the same family for four generations until recently. 

After the first donation, Doggwiler says that those in need can visit CAST every other Tuesday to pick up individually packaged meals. She also notes that Claudio’s Waterfront recently opened for takeout, delivery, and dockside pickup so those visiting the restaurant can also donate canned goods, clothing, and more that will be brought to CAST. 

Crabby Jerry’s is also open for takeout and delivery while food from Claudio’s main restaurant is limited to pizza. 

In addition to donating food to CAST, Claudio’s is also supporting the efforts of healthcare personnel at Stony Brook’s Eastern Long Island Hospital in Greenport by donating gift certificates for weekly raffles to the staff. 

“The staff can take home food with them so they don’t have to eat at the hospital every time,” Doggwiler says, adding that it “gives the workers a bit of flexibility to enjoy a meal with family, or their partner.”

Moreover, there is also a project underway to decorate masks with local elementary school students in honor of the hospital’s 475 employees. The masks will be hung at the hospital as a thank you to the community’s first responders.

Patrons and first responders enjoying Claudio’s signature dishes such as clam chowders or lobster rolls might want to toss a thank you to Executive Chef Kevin Garcia, who is now helping his partner celebrity Chef Franklin Becker oversee all three kitchens at Claudio’s after lending Becker a hand last summer with menu changes at the storied restaurant complex. 

Garcia, who started in the restaurant business at age 15 washing dishes, worked his way up the culinary ladder for more than 20 years at high-end restaurants such as Jean Georges Vongerichten’s Prime Steakhouse at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Drew Nieporent’s Lucca in Boca Raton, Mario Batali’s Lupa and later as chef di cucina at Del Posto. 

He says that working out on Long Island’s North Fork is very special due to its “small farms and availability of fresh fish, excellent produce, and local wineries.” 

“It’s been like a dream… amazing,” he says, noting how he’s built relationships with local farmers, and has had access to very fresh, local seafood.

However, Garcia couldn’t help note how the restaurant industry has been “decimated” by the coronavirus.

“We’re dealing with the rules of COVID,” he says. “It’s a complete reinvention of everything. It’ll work out for some people, and some not.”

He predicts this pandemic will have a lasting effect on the hospitality industry and that many restaurants won’t reopen. 

Garcia, who grew up in New York City and Connecticut, notes that they are trying their best to keep the integrity and history of Claudio’s intact, despite the difficulty of grappling with the new reality of social distancing. 

“We’re just preparing for when we can have seating outside,” he says, but…”we still have staff to pay and we are in the process of hiring, but at the moment, we’re not covering expenses from just doing takeout and delivery.” 

Some of the dishes Garcia has been helping get out the door include lobster rolls, lobster Cobb salad, soft shell crab, and oysters and clams served a variety of ways, from steamed to sandwiches.  

“Although we sometimes have to make changes for takeout and delivery, you still have to put out your best things and do the best you can,” he says.  

Claudio’s is located at 111 Main St. in Greenport. It can be reached at 631-477-0627 or claudios.com

Related Story: The North Fork: Farm Country Plus A Lot More

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