Waterzooi – A Long Island Staple – Opens in Port Washington
Beyond the 4.4 million pounds of mussels they’ve sold to date, Waterzooi’s team prides themselves on their innovative menu, their sophisticated service, & their cutting edge cocktails. In fact, their pride & confidence inspired an additional location in Port Washington – scheduled to open on Monday, February 3.
John Russo & I sat down with Jeff Piciullo, one of the founding partners of Waterzooi, to learn more about the history of this restaurant and how it became a Long Island favorite.
“Chris & I grew up on Long Island & met as kids while playing CYO basketball,” Jeff explains, reminiscing about his early friendship with Chris Werle, one of Waterzooi’s founding partners. “As we got older, we were intrigued with different eclectic beers & really became beer aficionados.”
Jeff & Chris’s love of eclectic beer inspired the first of their “beer journeys” to Europe. As Belgian beer gained in popularity across the United States, Jeff & Chris went to Belgium & London, expecting to focus on their love of beer. While the beer was amazing, these budding entrepreneurs noticed that the food at authentic pubs was just as amazing as the beer.
“Yeah, we quickly realized that overseas, the cuisine – not just the beer – is the star at pubs & restaurants,” Jeff recalls while recounting his overseas travel. “In fact, the name ‘Waterzooi’ was inspired by the name of a traditional Belgian dish: Vaterzoy. You can have Waterzooi of rabbit, Waterzooi of shellfish, Waterzooi of chicken. It’s amazing!”
Jeff & Chris brought their new culinary insight back to the US as restauranteurs on Long Island. Beyond their love of beer & great food, perhaps the most important element of their growing business was the team they assembled & the relationships they cultivated.
Right out of college, Jeff initially prepared to work in marketing in the music industry. In fact, he became Tony Bennet’s personal assistant while working at Capital Records. Trying to develop two careers, however, was never going to work if the ultimate goal was to have a successful restaurant. Jeff loved the lifestyle of owning a restaurant and wanted to commit all of his energy to Croxley’s – Jeff & Chris’s original restaurant & bar.
It wasn’t just Jeff & Chris, though, that made their restaurants succeed. Because of the lessons learned in Europe about the importance of food in a traditional ale house, Jeff & Chris partnered with Ed Davis to develop a menu that truly valued the food in their new establishment. Ed is the Executive Chef & Partner in the business & a driving force behind the rave reviews of their food.
Jeff, Chris, & Ed worked hard to create a family atmosphere for their staff, knowing that good employees were the backbone of the business. Jeff speaks about how it was a blessing that a couple of key employees came on in the early stages at Waterzooi in Garden City.
“Joe Mendolia and Joe Rodriguez were part of our original crew at Waterzooi Garden City and are now partners and part of the success of Novita’ and Croxley’s,” Jeff said.
With the success of their Garden City location – combined with their experience in a variety of other successful restaurants – Waterzooi is ready to open a second location in Port Washington on Monday, February 3. Jeff, Chris, & Ed are excited to share their love of amazing food & great drinks with the North Shore of Long Island. The mouth-watering food served by these experienced restaurateurs will be a welcome addition to the local North Shore foodie scene. Visit waterzooi.com today, & sign up for notifications about special events. Find them on Instagram @waterzooi & on Facebook. You don’t want to miss this amazing, new North Shore restaurant! Simply delicious – this Belgian Bistro & Oyster Bar is Simply North Shore!