Long Island Taste Program gives local restaurants a chance to shine

The entrance to the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum. CHRISTIAN CANGIANO/MORE THAN BAGELS

By Christian Cangiano

Concert goers walked into the newly renovated Nassau Coliseum on April 5 with excitement to not only see what the $165 million facelift looked like, but also to try the highly talked about new cuisine that lined the arenaai??i??s concourses as well.

The food options that line up the new Coliseum were picked by The Long Island Taste Program, a program put together to search across Nassau and Suffolk Counties to provide arena visitors with local food options. The program was put together in partnership by Levy Restaurants, which provides food to dozens of arenas and stadiums across the country, and Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment (BSE), the owners of the new Nassau Coliseum, as well as Barclays Center.

ai???We said, why donai??i??t we pair up with people who are local,ai??? Terrence Cave, Executive Chef of the Nassau Coliseum, said. ai???We had a consultant chef that traveled around Long Island and did her research and found out about restaurants that had a good track record as far as longevity and food quality.ai???

Eight businesses are a part of the inception of the Long Island Taste Program: Smokinai??i?? Alai??i??s Famous BBQ Joint in Massapequa Park, Roast Sandwich House, located in Melville and Hicksville, Rockville Centreai??i??s Cabo ai???A Taste of Mexico,ai??? Umbertoai??i??s of New Hyde Park, Vincentai??i??s Clam Bar, located in Carle Place and GreeKrave in Deer Park.

Prime Food Distributor in Port Washington provides the meat used for hamburgers, while Nathanai??i??s Famous, headquartered in Jericho, provides the hot dogs and french fries at the Arena.

For these restaurants, the opportunity goes past the chance to make money off of being showcased at the new coliseum.

ai???What we had to make clear to people is this is not going to make you rich,ai??? Cave said. ai???Itai??i??s an opportunity to market your business, and there is a possibility you can make money on it, but this is not going to make you a millionaire.ai???

Other local businesses that provide food to the arena include New York Cupcakery, a bake shop in Bellmore, Doughology, a doughnut shop in Lynbrook, and Tateai??i??s Bake Shop, which provides cookies, located in Southampton. Via Trentoai??i??s in Sea Cliff provides the Italian specialty goods, such as cheese and dry sausage.

There are also many different craft beer choices, brewed in breweries across Long Island, all of which were chosen through careful planning and tasting.

The taste program also extends to the ingredients that the kitchens use to prepare the food.

ai???We use ancillary local products also, we try to use local honey, we try to use local cheeses, like theyai??i??re not represented, as well as sea salt from Amagansett,ai??? Cave said.

The choosing process for the program was not a simple one, with many options available to them.

ai???[We went through] easily, in excess of 75 to 100,ai??? Chris Giacalone, director of operations at Levy Restaurants, said.

The program was not the first of its kind; BSE initially pioneered the Brooklyn Taste Program when they opened up Barclays Center in 2012. The Brooklyn program ran into many problems.

ai???It was much harder in Brooklyn,ai??? Giacalone said. ai???In Brooklyn we had to beg people to be a part of it, because number one, the arena was brand new at the time, nobody was sure how successful it was going to be.ai???

There was also a worry about competing against Madison Square Garden, the premier events arena for decades in New York City. Other issues that the Brooklyn program faced included turnover in the businesses represented at Barclays Center due to businesses being unable to handle the droves of people, along with businesses shutting down.

With Nassau Coliseum, the program looked to find more stable businesses, according to Giacalone, that had been open for at least two years, with signs of growth and a good following already coming in with them.

The opportunity to be a part of the first program at Nassau Coliseum was a big honor to the restaurants involved.

ai???For barbeque, I was honored that they came to us, for us to represent Long Islandai??i??s taste so to speak,ai??? Al Horowitz, owner of Smokinai??i?? Alai??i??s, said.

While other restaurants turned down the opportunity to be a part of the program due to apprehension that their food would not being be properly represented by the staff of Levyai??i??s, restaurants like Cabo, which were included, had no such worries.

ai???We were not hesitant at all. I am familiar with the Levy Group and knew that they would execute well,ai??? Angelo Ramunni, proprietor of Cabo, said.

Cave has worked hand in hand with restaurant owners to assure that their food would be presented to the highest standard as it is in their restaurants.

ai???After meeting with the team: Chris and Terrence and all of them, they made us feel very comfortable that they were going to go above and beyond to make sure they were able to match our product exactly the way we serve it at the store,ai??? Paul Doyle, owner of Roast Sandwich House said.

For Levyai??i??s, the restaurants that provide food at the Nassau Coliseum help carry on a legacy that was left at the original Nassau Coliseum, known lovingly among Long Islanders as ai???the Old Barn.ai??? They look at the coliseum as a piece of Long Island that everybody on the Island carries with them.

ai???Somebody had an interesting quote within the organization, ai???we had to teach people about Brooklyn, we just had to remind people about Nassau,ai??i??ai??? Giacalone said.

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