There is no doubt that the East End of Long Island is one of the country’s most exciting areas to visit in the summer when celebrity sightings abound. The world-class restaurants and award-winning beaches attract thousands of people who trek to the Hamptons, Montauk and the vineyards, clogging arteries on both forks. Farther west on the Island communities are thriving with Long Islanders spending their time and money locally and loving every minute of it.
They frequent neighborhood lounges and beach bars and microbreweries, enjoying top-notch entertainment all within close proximity to their homes. Whether by the ocean, the bay or the Sound, there are restaurants and shops that rival both the Hamptons and Manhattan. Savvy Long Islanders are experiencing the best that our vibrant downtowns have to offer. We thought it would be fun to visit four Long Island “hot spots” where the summer comes alive.
Huntington is a cultural mecca. The Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington Summer Arts Festival and Heckscher Museum of Art complement the newest venue on the block, The Paramount.
It’s also home to some of the best restaurants on Long Island. There is always a line for a slice of pizza with a handful of “cold cheese” at Little Vincent’s, quite arguably the Best Pizza on Long Island.
Those who used to travel to New York City to have their hair done now reside only a few miles from top-rated salons like Spa Adriana and Tres Jolie. Boutiques like OohLaLa and Lotus Vintage are always popular and larger stores like Fox’s and Marsh’s reside in harmony with the independents. There’s enough business in the “Little Apple” for everyone.
Laura Petrocelli, our model, is a lifelong resident of Huntington. If you’re a networker, socialite or philanthropist on Long Island, you’ve probably met her. She’s been the event-and-marketing coordinator for Ferrari-Maserati of Long Island and the co-founder of Huntington-based Couture Concepts, a high-end event design and bridesmaid couture boutique.
Laura’s expertise in marketing and events is intrinsic.
“I always made my clients feel important,” she says. “When my territory became number one in the Northeast, the managers wanted to know how I did it.
“I thought about my technique, which to me was just a natural instinct, and said, ‘I thought outside of the donut box.’ They loved that and almost 10 years later, I have been told that they still use that quote in their quarterly company meetings.”
She used the same event planning concept for the Experience Auto Group.
“I learned that I don’t have to stick to test-drive events and road rallies just because it’s an automotive dealer group event. I still ‘think outside the donut box.’” She’s planned Made in Italy events, Gentlemen’s Nights Out and shooting events at the Morrelly Homeland Security Training Center in Bethpage.
“I brought my years of wedding and event planning experience to the table and changed the way they looked at that department,” Laura says. “My goal was to bring new and qualified faces through the door and make them fall in love with the idea of owning a Ferrari or Maserati. No one needs a $350,000 exotic car. It’s an emotional purchase. We are selling an experience, a dream and the lifestyle that comes along with it.”
Laura gave us the inside scoop on her favorite Huntington shopping destinations: Rexer-Parkes, My Inheritance Vintage Boutique and OohLaLa Boutique. If she needs to wind down, she heads over to Prime for drinks while enjoying the view of Huntington Harbor, or Swallow on Main Street for tapas and cocktails. She loves Restaurant Joanina on Gerard Avenue for its great Italian food and wine.
Huntington Village thrives after dark. The Paramount has been a game changer, drawing huge crowds for its live performances ranging from Joan Rivers to Trace Adkins and The Cult. The Huntington Arts Council’s summer calendar is jam-packed with great events, too.
Live entertainment, parks, beaches, boating, shopping and the vibrancy of a hip urban area among tree-lined streets are why Huntington is one of the crown jewels of Long Island
Known to locals as “Down Port,” Port Jefferson is a vibrant waterfront village that boasts unique shops and boutiques, cafes and restaurants offering everything from local seafood to French cuisine. Have a burger at Grumpy Jack’s or dine overlooking the harbor at the elegant Danfords on the Sound.
A favorite weekend destination for thousands of Long Islanders is The Frigate, an iconic ice cream and candy shop, which has an inventory of sweets that rivals Disney World. On Main Street is the Harbor Square Mall, filled with small boutiques, particularly Sea Creations which specializes in seashell jewelry and starfish pendants.
During the summer, when hundreds of yachts and sailboats line up neatly in the marina, Port Jefferson comes alive with their Harborside Concert Series, music in the park, farmers’ market and picnic supper concerts. Local establishments often feature live music and dancing. If you want to get away for a change, you can hop on the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry and enjoy a scenic ride to Connecticut and points north.
Our Port Jefferson model, Katie Poma, is the co-owner of the Secret Garden Tea Café on Main Street. She grew up visiting tea houses across the country with her mother, Carol.
They wanted to operate their own tea establishment, and in 2011 they opened their shop in the heart of Port Jefferson.
Carol works in the back of the house preparing delicious fare from finger sandwiches to petit fours while Katie oversees the front of the house, serving as hostess and managing the gift shop.
“We enjoy working together,” Katie says. “We have similar personalities and creativeness.”
Katie is known in the community for her elegant style. Locals will often walk by and peek inside the shop window to see what dress or fascinating hat Katie is wearing. She shops in boutiques like Earring Tabu and has been deemed Port Jefferson’s very own “Fashion-Tea-Sta.”
Entering the tea shop is like walking into an English garden. Flowers are everywhere, and butterflies float in the air. The space is filled with unique gifts especially for those who love lace and bows. Of course, tea remains one of their best sellers.
“The Secret Garden was named after the book written by Francis Hodgson Burnett,” Katie explains. The novel is a classic in English literature. The garden motif exudes the same aura that transformed Mary Lennox, the fictitious lead character, from being self-centered to a version of Miss Congeniality.
Besides choosing from an extensive menu of teas, delicious salads and sandwiches, guests can dress up in hats, boas and pearls during high tea to remind them of their carefree childhood years.
“Now, more than ever, people have so many hardships they are dealing with,” Katie says, “we make them feel as if they are cut off from the outside world, to be happy and not think of all the negatives.”
At each table setting a beautiful rose is accompanied by a card with an inspirational quote. When her mother first suggested this idea, Katie thought it was a little silly, but now she realizes how pleasant an impact it’s had on her guests.
“It is our hope when people visit the garden, they will emerge more relaxed and able to face the world rejuvenated,” Katie says. “We wanted to create a place where people could escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a place where you could sit down to tea with your mother and friends.”
The Village of Patchogue began its renaissance almost 20 years ago, turning the downtown from blight to beautiful.
Filled with crowded restaurants, trendy shops and hundreds of new homes, Patchogue is the poster village for “smart growth” on Long Island. It’s known for hosting live music, the arts and craft beer. Thanks to the revitalization effort, it’s become a pretty exciting place to visit as well as inhabit.
Artspace Patchogue is a special residential complex that provides area artists with a place to live, create and promote their art.
Our model, Jennifer Jeran, is an artist and resident of Artspace.
“My mother had been aware of the plans for Artspace for several years,” Jennifer says. “She would occasionally remind me of it when I would talk to her about the dismal housing options within my price range on Long Island She saw it as an opportunity for me to not only be independent, but do so in a community where I would have complete access to the arts. She was absolutely right.”
Jennifer applied when Artspace held a lottery for a limited number of lofts in 2010 and her number was selected.
Several interviews and questionnaires later she made the cut. And in February 2011, Jennifer was one of the first people to move in.
“It was a brand new building and a new start, and definitely a pivotal moment in my life,” she says. “Having my work displayed and self-identifying as an artist is a big thing for me.”
“Along Main Street you can find Thai, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Peruvian and American restaurants, a theatre, music venues and bars, bowling alleys, gyms, salons, gallery spaces, spa services, an organic market. I even have an art house cinema next door. The LIRR is around the corner, and the bay is just south. There’s just about everything one could possibly need, and all within walking distance.”
Patchogue’s Alive After Five summer street fairs are hugely popular. This summer they will feature live music and entertainment on six stages, food trucks, shopping and children’s activities.
The renovated Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts has attracted an array of top-rated entertainment. A heartbeat away is The Emporium, a concert venue that features many local bands.
The Great South Bay Music Festival promises an impressive offering with BB King, Taking Back Sunday and The Fabulous Thunderbirds scheduled to perform this summer as well.
Jennifer is happy with her decision to say on LI and says, “Living in Patchogue is an amazing experience.”
The new Long Beach Boardwalk looks as smooth as the sugar white sand that lines the shore. Rebuilt with metal supports to withstand the next hurricane, it seems to turn gold as the sun sets, making it so much more beautiful than the dull wood that preceded it.
Like the new boardwalk, you can sense how strong Long Beach has become since Sandy, making it a contender for summer fun.
Our model, Ingrid Krumholz Dodd, also exudes that strength. She’s lived in Long Beach for almost 15 years with her husband, Randy, and their two children.
Before the storm hit, Ingrid met Craig Weintraub, a Long Island filmmaker, who was scouting for film locations when he stopped at the Allegria Hotel, where Ingrid worked.
It turned out they had mutual friends and shared an enthusiasm and love of film.
After weeks of meetings, they were sitting on the rooftop of the Allegria, which overlooks the ocean, and wondered why no one had produced a film festival in Long Beach before. They agreed to be partners.
“In 2011 our dream became a reality,” Ingrid says.Then Sandy slammed Long Beach.
“My family was displaced, our cars were gone, our house was damaged,” Ingrid says. “We were all in survival mode for months.”
Their film festival planning also took a hit.
“How on earth was I going to ask anyone to sponsor this festival when the locals didn’t even have homes?” she says.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano saw the efforts they were putting into keeping the festival alive. “He encouraged us to apply for a travel tourism grant,” Ingrid says. “Without it, we would have never come this far so soon.”
With the community rallying around them, the festival was kept alive. “At that moment we knew we couldn’t cancel. People were too sad. We needed to brighten their spirits. The show must go on.”
“Tribeca was created after 9/11 to revitalize the area, we can do the same,” she says.
Last year, the Long Beach Film Festival had more than 3,000 attendees. They expect more this year. Celebrity supporters include Scott Franklin, Joan Jett, Dee Snider and Burt Young.
This year’s festival runs from July 30th through August 4th. Long Beach will be transformed from a beach community to Hollywood East, giving credence to Ingrid’s query: “Why Not Long Island? Why Not Long Beach?”