On the stretch of Montauk Highway between East Quogue and Hampton Bays, the restaurant building identified by its miniature lighthouse has been home to a variety of culinary accents, from Greek to Turkish to ribs and pub fare.
Now a veteran Long Island restaurateur has opened Ciao Bella Senhora at the site, a family-oriented restaurant serving food from his home country of Portugal as well as from Italy, Brazil, and France.
Chef Americo Araujo, who previously owned La Casserola—in the building a little to the west that now houses Villa Tuscano—and co-owned Il Miradoro in Port Jefferson, opened Ciao Bella Senhora in late December, according to his daughter, Sonia, 21, who is a student at Stony Brook University.
“We want to bring something different, a change, to Hampton Bays,” Sonia said in a recent interview.
The menu at Ciao Bella Senhora reflects the idea of bringing change to the local restaurant scene with its dinner options, which are notable for their Portuguese and Brazilian flair.
Some menu choices veer more toward what would be seen on a menu for an Italian restaurant—such as chicken parmigiana, chicken breast with melted mozzarella in an “aromatic” tomato sauce, priced at $15.95. Other menu options such as
add a South American flavor. The rice-based dish ($31.95) features jumbo shrimp, chicken, clams, mussels, salmon, sausage, peppers and peas.
The roasted duck with wild raspberry sauce ($22.95) is an entrée inspired by French cuisine.
Previous establishments at the site include The Lighthouse Restaurant and Zachary’s Roadhouse, according to Mr. Araujo’s son Chris, 19, who works at the restaurant.
While the exterior of the building derives a strong nautical feel from the lighthouse attached to the western side, the interior strives for more of a fine dining feel, with dark mahogany furnishings, cathedral ceilings, and candlelit tables.
Mr. Araujo is currently waiting to receive his liquor license from the New York State Liquor Authority. Once he has it in hand, he plans to offer cocktails and a selection of wines, as well. The restaurant will soon feature two large bars, Mr. Araujo said.
To complement the fine dining feel of the restaurant, Mr. Araujo has introduced a strong Latin flavor in the bright, distinctive sign for the restaurant.
As seen from Montauk Highway, and on the restaurant’s website, ciaobellasenhora.com, the sign shows a beautiful woman wearing a large red hat, seated at a green table drinking from a glass of wine. Chris said that a family friend of the Araujos, Port Jefferson artist Cynthia Rosen, painted the sign.
Ms. Rosen also completed a number of murals for Il Miradoro.
Cross-cultural references carry over into the restaurant’s name as well. Ciao Bella Senhora echoes a Portuguese phrase that borrows “ciao bella” (“hello, beautiful”) from Italian and uses the Portuguese spelling, senhora, of the Spanish word for lady, senora, Sonia noted.
Mr. Araujo and his wife, Lucia, and children, Chris, Sonia and Jack, 10, a student at Eugene Hour Elementary School in Centereach, work together to create a friendly and accommodating atmosphere that they hope will make the refined interior of the restaurant a bit more warm.
Jack said that he enjoys working with his family, and Sonia echoed his sentiments, noting that in the restaurant business she can “meet different people every day.”
Mr. Araujo said that the homemade chicken barbecue dinner ($21.95 stands out as a Portuguese and Brazilian option on the menu. Chicken breast and legs are barbecued over a high flame on a rotisserie, and are then smothered in spices and flavors from Brazil.
In addition to hearty continental entrées, Ciao Bella Senhora offers delicate desserts as well. Sweet treats such as flan, a rich custard dessert flavored with caramel popular in Latin America, and crepes, thin pancakes rolled and stuffed with ice cream that originated in French cuisine, tempt Ciao Bella Senhora customers after their dinners.
Sonia explained that the restaurant also offers cassata, a layered chocolate and vanilla cake.
Mr. Araujo owned and operated Il Miradoro in Port Jefferson for 10 years, and La Casserola in Hampton Bays for five. His main priority with Ciao Bella Senhora is to keep it operating well into the future.
“I want it to be successful,” Mr. Araujo said.
Noting that he bought the building in which he opened Ciao Bella Senhora, Mr. Araujo added that he likes owning a restaurant in the Hamptons, and hopes that his restaurant will draw large crowds of beachgoers in the summer.
While the restaurant is still fairly new to Hampton Bays, a steady flow of customers stopped in at Ciao Bella Senhora last Thursday, January 22.
Women at one table who brought their own bottle of wine and were sharing a large salad drizzled with balsamic dressing, said that they were looking forward to sampling the menu at the newcomer restaurant.
“I always like to try new restaurants,” said Rosella Pellegrino, who ordered chicken
($16.95), chicken breast with shallots, peas, and mushrooms in white wine sauce. “A co-worker of a friend of mine said this was very good.”