Though Greenport lines the shores of the harbor and the Peconic River, few restaurants in the maritime village’s bustling center offer the epitome of summer living that is waterfront dining. A recent boom in the foodie scene comes not a moment too soon, with several new eateries and specialized shops opening their doors come Memorial Day Weekend.
Among these is PORT, set to open Sunday, May 21 and aptly named for its location right off the North Ferry leading to Shelter Island. Owners Ali and Keith Bavaro, who also own waterfront restaurant SALT, are ready to check everything off the summer diner’s list with their newest venture.
“We decided to open PORT after seeing such a wonderful location sitting empty for about two years,” Ali said in regard to the space, which formerly housed Blue Canoe and the Chowder Pot Pub. “We live on Shelter Island…We would look at the property every time we took the ferry.”
After approaching the owners of the building, North Fork Ventures, the Bavaros were excited to find immense support for the new restaurant. “[North Fork Ventures] were big fans of the style restaurant we have at SALT…They really wanted to support small business and local owners,” said Ali.
The couple has teamed up with another duo from St. John in the US Virgin Islands to help craft a menu with approachable food. Executive Chef Michael Fortino, who most recently served as executive chef at Zozo’s at the Sugar Mill in Caneel Bay Resort, will be adding some Caribbean flair to local seafood this summer.
Eager to try some new preparations of the area’s notable local seafood, Chef Fortino will put his own touch to the raw bar, fish tacos and other seafood dishes. “We are most excited for the PORT Lobster Roll,” Ali said. “It is our take on merging a Connecticut and New England lobster roll. The whole lobster is butter poached, then picked and the warm lobster meat is tossed with a little bit of mayo and citrus, fresh herbs, then finished with drawn butter.”
Chef Fortino’s wife, Nikki Kefalas-Fortino, will serve as the restaurant’s general manager, adding to the cool and casual North Fork vibes of PORT’s atmosphere. “Nikki is the embodiment of enlightened hospitality,” Ali said. “[She] will ensure that each guest squeezes every last drop of fun from those long summer days.”
The rustic and nautical décor will honor Greenport’s rich maritime history with servers dressed in crisp red, white and blue. The outdoor space will offer the majority of the restaurant’s seating, making waterside dining one of the biggest draws.
As with their Shelter Island establishment’s outside bar, the Shipwreck, the Bavaros are looking for a name for the bar facing Greenport Harbor. “We put it out there that we are looking for a name for the gazebo bar and got 298 suggestions,” Ali said. “We haven’t settled on one yet, but it is great to see how excited folks are about PORT.”
Live music will be played seven days a week, with mellow-jam bands and acoustic sets in the afternoons, and a mix of reggae and rock on occasion. The Bavaros invite guests to enjoy a meal with the kids in t-shirts and flip flops or romantic evenings outside in the warm summer evening breeze.
“Keith and I are bringing everything we have learned from running SALT on Shelter Island, and combining it with the brilliance of our partners from the Virgin Islands,” said Ali. “The combo will be a sure winner for the town of Greenport.”