Ever since Red restaurant executive chef and owner Nino Antuzzi planted a flag in downtown Huntington, NY, and claimed it as the new frontier for his upscale, new American eatery, the restaurant has, in the words of Newsday, “battled recessions, resisted ‘trendlets’ and improved dramatically.”
Not only has Red survived as a sumptuously upscale hot spot serving cuisine alight with Mediterranean and Italian influences—it has thrived.
After opening to rave reviews in 2001, the sophisticated eatery led to the creation of two more restaurants: Osteria de Nino, in 2003, and Sapsuckers in 2010.
In an interview with the Boxerbrand blog, Recipe for Success, General Manager Kelley Danek discusses the key ingredients to their success.
Q: Red was pioneering on many levels when it opened in 2001.
At the time, the restaurant represented something that had not actually come to Huntington yet. We offered a more modern thought about cuisine offering free-range organic and small production wines. It hit all of those notes at a time when the food environment was changing and people were awakening to trying new things, and learning more about food and where it comes from.
Q: Please tell us about your commitment to procuring the best produce and wines.
With produce, we use a local farm exclusively when they’re in season, and have developed a great relationship with them. When they’re not in season, we source organically grown produce.
As for wine, Red is recognized for its wine list. Some would say it’s the best in the area!
When I look for wines, I select from small-production, family supported vintners that represent the very best grape in the areas they are grown. And all the wines are tasted and selected by me.
Q: In a review by Newsday, Red is praised for its longevity and staying power. What is its secret to success?
I think our most important key is to always nurture our reputation. It’s very, very strong. And our family of restaurants helps to build on that. Word-of-mouth has been very strong, and has helped us become a neighborhood gem. Each of our restaurants has its own character, people definitely have their favorites, and they all compliment each other.
Q: How do the three restaurants, Red, Osteria de Nino and Sapsuckers differentiate themselves from one another?
Red, which was opened in 2001, offers a very upscale but clean Mediterranean cuisine. We offer very fine dining, with a very elegant, taken-care of environment. This is where people will feel they’re in a special-occasion restaurant, for birthdays, anniversaries, or if you want to be pampered on a Monday night.
Osteria de Nino, which we opened in 2003, is true rustic Italian food. One of the dishes, the Paglia E Fieno, has been reviewed very well. It’s fresh pasta, with spinach and semonlina strand pasta served with wild mushrooms, truffle oil and cream. The literal translation is hay and straw.
Sapsuckers, which is about to have its fourth birthday, is directly across the street from Osteria. It’s our little neighborhood gastro pub. The focus is on 16 tap lines of craft beer, and we offer very, very good pub food. We make our own fresh ground organic burgers, we hand pick produce, and hand cut our French fries everyday.
Q: Getting back to Red, is there one dish that has been on the menu since its inception?
Yes! We have a Pan Seared Yellowfin Tuna, which we tried to change once, and there were riots! It’s a high quality, sushi-grade tuna with a sweet soy ginger glaze, served with a wasabi aioli over jasmine rice with haricot verts.
Q: We’re thrilled that you’ve included Boxerbrand menu covers in your odyssey!
When we first opened, I used to hand make our own menus. It was pretty difficult, and after that I found Boxerbrand.
At Sapsuckers, we have a very high volume, so we decided to go with Shimmer menu covers for the durability, and the fact that they’re so beautiful. At Osteria, we went with Italian Ultra, and created our wine list, dessert and dinner covers. We did a trio of color: Claret for the wine list. Merlot for the dessert menu. And the dinner menu covers are in Camel.