Stony Brook residents are rallying to save Pentimento, a restaurant that locals say is a beloved staple of Stony Brook Village for nearly three decades and is at risk of shutting down.
Patricia Kirchner, of Stony Brook, organized a petition and a Facebook group called “Save Pentimento Restaurant” in hopes of keeping the restaurant afloat. In less than one week, the petition has garnered more than 1,800 signatures, and a GoFundMe online fundraiser created to aid the restaurant has raised $3,400.
“Pentimento is at the heart of our community. It has been the place we call home, the place we celebrate our special moments, and that place to fill our bellies and our hearts,” says the GoFundMe, organized by community member Chelsea Gomez.
Many donors expressed similar sentiments, sharing fond memories of the restaurant.
“I love this restaurant,” one donor wrote on the GoFundMe. “We had our wedding here and many wonderful meals with family and friends. Save Pentimento.”
The outpouring of support was not only directed at the restaurant itself but the people who run it as well. Partners Lisa Cusumano and Dennis Young, manager and chef, respectively, have become invaluable to the community over the years, customers say.
“Lisa’s such an incredible human being,” Kirchner says. “She’s the most charitable, loving woman I’ve ever met. The way that she and Dennis make you feel like family, you want to be there and support them.”
Pentimento is in danger of closing its doors after being denied a lease renewal by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO). Due to financial challenges in the pandemic, the owners are struggling to gather the resources required for relocation. In response, the WMHO is facing a significant amount of online backlash.
However, the WMHO is not wavering. A statement released by Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO and principal officer of Eagle Realty Holdings Inc., asserted that there was a breach of contract and that “the tenant asked for a much longer lease extension than is indicated in the present option to renew.”
The explanation has done little to sway the minds of disappointed Stonybrook residents.
“We have all convened in this one restaurant for the past 27 years, and I think it’s because of what Pentimento is,” Kirchner says. “We all feel such a connection to them — I think everyone in the community’s child has worked there at some point. Lisa has employed everyone, it’s amazing.”
“Losing Pentimento would be a tragedy for this community,” says the GoFundMe. “They employ dozens of people and support local businesses including farms, bakeries, fish markets, butchers, and more.”
Despite the unwavering stance of the WMHO, the creators of the Facebook page are continuing to organize to aid Pentimento, including launching a phone call campaign, a letter-writing campaign, and a physical protest in front of WMHO and Eagle Realty, as well as spreading the petition and fundraiser.