The dish on Long Island's restaurant and food scene
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Sticky fingers at LI restaurants
If Granny filched a silver spoon from the fabled Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan back in 1955, there's now a way to make amends: The hotel announced an “amnesty” for the return of any silverware, ashtrays, salt shakers or other memorabilia palmed by sticky-fingered diners before 1960.
It's not just at big city hotel restaurants that folks avail themselves of the “five finger discount.” We asked some local restaurateurs about items they've seen walk out the doors over the past few years. Turns out Long Island has some creative thieves:
Tom Schaudel, co-owner of CoolFish in Syosset and Jewel in Melville: At CoolFish, Schaudel has seen ornaments taken from the restaurant’s Christmas tree. Also, someone attempted to palm a double magnum bottle of wine that was on a shelf for decoration. Schaudel's top tale seems straight out of a sitcom: A woman cheating on her husband saw her spouse arrive with a date. Panicking, she fled to the restroom, removed a bird cage from there, put it on her shoulder for “camouflage” and walked out the door. The cage was later returned.
Al Horowitz, owner of Smokin’ Al’s Famous BBQ Joint in Bay Shore and Massapequa Park: Pigs fly at these barbecue eateries — at least the pig statuettes customers and crew have bought as gifts for the restaurants. If there’s a minor distraction or the lights go off, Horowitz says, “all of a sudden, a little piggy is gone.” People also like to nip the barbecue sauces on the table — but not just the bottles, the custom-made stand they fit into.
Vincent Michaels, co-owner and executive chef of J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse in Northport: A pair of senior citizens recently went “shopping” at a display of fresh vegetables, fruit and flowers in the foyer of the restaurant. “One lady took a vase with the flowers and her friend had a bag and loaded it up with tomatoes, potatoes and grapples (grape-apples).” Michaels watched the whole thing go down but decided to say nothing, given the advanced age of the two heisters.
Joseph Bonacore, chef-owner of Lawson Pub in Oceanside: Fresh flowers, on display in the restrooms, are frequently swiped. “We also stopped putting expensive steak knives out, since those are the first things to go off the table.” Not only do sugar packets disappear — so do the caddies they're in.
Shelby Poole, co-owner of Jackson’s in Commack: “One time, somebody walked in at the end of the night, stood up on the bar and took a bottle of Macallan 12 Scotch and walked out.” Poole later viewed the whole thing on a video, confident the crook had been at the restaurant to eat before staking out the good stuff — which is now hidden from plain sight.
Leisa Dent, chef co-owner of LL Dent in Carle Place: “We used to have these Eiffel Tower salt and pepper shakers, but I ended up having to buy more every week because people were walking out with them.” She switched to “dumpy household” shakers. Now, nobody's interested.
Some people think they can go “shopping” at the display, pictured above, in the foyer of J. Michaels Tuscan Steakhouse in Northport.