The restaurant Arlo is exactly how you might want your neighborhood’s new fine dining establishment to be: strikingly impressive yet warm and welcoming; the space is grand, high-class and cozy.
Tucked up a hill off 25A, the only indicator of Arlo’s presence is a large sign on the side of the well-trafficked road. Arlo takes land that, over the years, had fallen into disrepair and transforms it into a opportunity for us locals to have – within the shortest of drives – not just an evening out, but an experience.
Straddling Northport Village, Northport proper, and Fort Salonga, Arlo – the Latin word for “fortified hill” – is in the space once occupied by the Crestwood Manor banquet hall. Gone are the former facility’s wide-tiled floors, felt wallpaper and burgundy carpet leading up the center staircase. The only remaining nods to the Crestwood are a grandfather clock in the restaurant’s entrance and a grand piano just outside the upstairs bar; both have been updated to match the restaurant’s sleek interior.
The two-acre property Arlo sits on was acquired in 2018 by Steve Squitiro and Andrew Affa, founders of The Standard Hospitality Group. Together, the partners own several catering venues and restaurants on Long Island, including the Piermont in Babylon, Mission Taco in Huntington, and the soon-to-open The James, replacing the Babylon Carriage House.
It’s an admirable lineup, though Squitiro believes that, aside from his family, Arlo is the best thing he’s ever created. The restaurant served about 600 people on opening weekend, which began Friday, December 16. “It felt magical in here,” Affa gleamed. “Everybody was from a three-mile radius, everybody knew each other and was so happy to be here. They all just kept saying they’ve been waiting for a restaurant like this.”
That soft opening weekend, the partners had to close down their reservation books within the first six hours of announcing availability; the excitement serves as a testament to the vision Squitiro and Affa have worked to create for the last 18 months.
A shared passion
Affa and Squitiro met in 2011, while working at Carlyle on the Green in Bethpage, and say they hit it off right away. “We each bring something different to the table, but we have the same passion,” Squitiro explained. Both partners have an extensive background in the restaurant industry, starting at local establishments on Long Island.
After high school, Squitiro began working at John Anthony’s (now the Piermont in Babylon) as a busboy. He worked his way up to assistant general manager and then left to pursue opportunities in New York City, where he opened restaurants for other owners. Affa worked at several Nassau County restaurants before landing at Carlyle on the Green. Eventually, the pair would take over the Carlyle properties and in 2017, they went out on their own, forming The Standard Hospitality Group and acquiring the Piermont, a throwback to Squitiro’s roots in the business.
“It’s been a great run. He’s a great partner and a great visionary. He has a lot to do with the success of this company,” Squitiro said of Affa, admitting that it gets him emotional to think about their history together and how far they’ve come as partners.
“We initially purchased the [Arlo] property without knowing what we were going to do with it. Then the pandemic hit and put everything on hold; it was a scary moment,” Affa said.
The partners explored several ideas for the space before landing on what would eventually become Arlo. They considered opening a boutique catering hall, a Neopolitan pizza place, and even a beer garden to complement the nearby Del Vino winery. Squitiro said he and Affa spent a lot of time walking the interior, thinking about what to create. What they wanted most, he said, was to offer a level of hospitality that people have never experienced before – and with that in mind, Arlo was born.
The vision and design
The vision behind Arlo was to embrace classic dining, with a nod to the 1920s aesthetic. Pass the sleek wooden and earth-toned exterior and you’ll be greeted by blues and jazz music (think Nina Simone and Miles Davis). Inside there are black-and-white geometric tiles, warm wood finishes, gold globe-shaped light fixtures, suede tan dining chairs, and leather booths in “British Racing Green,” a deep emerald color featured throughout the space.
“We wanted to bring back classic dining, to a time when people went out to eat and it was a big deal to do so. Not pretentious, not over the top, we want to be a neighborhood spot, but we really want to bring it back with classical dishes and a classic vibe,” Affa said.
There are over 200 seats inside the restaurant and, on the first floor, an open kitchen that allows guests to see their meals prepared in plain sight. In warmer weather, an outdoor patio nestled among the property’s trees will add another 100 seats. The interior is divided into small sections, with two floors, each with its own bar and dining areas. The intention was to keep each seat intimate, regardless of where you are in the bustling restaurant.
Arlo’s design process was extensive with all hands on deck during the construction period. Squitiro and Affa worked with interior designer Beth Donner to capture that Roaring ’20s style. “We gave her inspiration on the direction we wanted to take it,” Squitiro said. “Andrew did a lot of research and, believe it or not, we Pinterest things. We created a Pinterest board of different elements and environments that we wanted, and then we gave it to Beth and she made it cohesive for us.”
The partners said they had their fingers on every little corner of the property, serving as both designers and general contractors during the 18-month process, beginning at 7am every morning. Thomas Moran and Jose Estevez, who are part of the team at The Standard Hospitality Group, also played an integral part of the build-out process, Squitiro said. They know every detail of the space and were there the whole way through; then they got into suits at opening to provide a fine dining experience, he added.
Fitting the retro vibe, the menu offerings at Arlo focus on classic dishes, including fresh seafood entrees and prime meat, many with tableside preparations.
There’s a full raw bar with oysters, little neck clams, lobster and shrimp cocktail by the piece, and a crab cake that’s “out of this world,” said Squitiro. “Land” dishes include a beef bourguignon pot pie and tableside chicken parmesan; “sea” dishes include prawns over goat cheese polenta with garbanzo chorizo hash and olive relish, and halibut over beluga lentils, sautéed kale and orange beurre blanc.
The menu also features a butcher board from purveyors throughout the midwest, with a porterhouse dinner for two, filet mignon and ribeye. There’s a roasted eggplant dish in a spicy carrot purèe for vegetable lovers and a selection of sides including a kitchen sink baked potato (talk about old-school). Everything is sourced from the highest quality ingredients, according to Affa. The kitchen uses local ingredients when it can, he said, and brings in fresh seafood daily.
“We like to put a little twist on regular fare,” Squitiro explained. The crème brûlée, which was mentioned – and recommended – several times by the partners, is prepared by the pastry chef with a hint of rosemary.
Your table is ready...
Arlo is open six days a week (closed Tuesday), starting at 4pm for dinner service. The kitchen/bar will continue going through a soft opening period for the next few weeks to ensure that service is “on point,” Affa said, but expect to be fully operational by New Year's day.
Beginning next week, Arlo’s hospitality night will begin on Mondays, featuring live music and food specials. Its music program will also begin soon, with jazz on the grand piano on Mondays and Thursdays.
To make a reservation, including for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve seatings, call 631-491-2756 or visit the Arlo website.