Since he was 10, Chris Cariello wanted to work in the restaurant business, first in the kitchen as a cook and, eventually, as the owner of an establishment.The Hampton Bays resident got his chance to do both of those things at age 25 when he opened 1 North Steakhouse in his hometown in July 2009. But when Mr. Cariello’s landlords, the owners of R Squared Development, decided not to renew his lease so they could eventually raze the building to make way for a new residential development, the future of his restaurant was put in jeopardy.
After spending close to two years searching for a new venue, which included looking at potential sites on the North Fork and elsewhere in the Hamptons and western Long Island, Mr. Cariello inked a deal on October 31 to buy a building on West Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, where his business will reopen early next month.
“Hampton Bays—even though it’s expanding, even though it’s getting more diverse, even though it is a tourist area—is a small town, everybody knows everybody,” he said. “I love Hampton Bays for that—that’s why I wanted to stay.”
Mr. Cariello opened 1 North Steakhouse on North Road near the Shinnecock Canal after signing a five-year contract. A 2002 graduate of Hampton Bays High School who holds degrees in both the culinary arts and food service entrepreneurship from Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island, Mr. Cariello said he knew from the inception of his restaurant that its original location would only be temporary.
He explained that he was fully aware that the property owners, cousins Gregg and Mitchell Rechler, had bigger plans for the land that is now part of the proposed Canoe Place Inn Maritime Planned Development District. But as a young cook just starting out, a short-term lease put him at ease.
“It was my first restaurant, I was kinda happy that we didn’t have a 15-year lease because if I screwed it up, I didn’t have to worry about it,” he said. “As the years went on and our popularity grew and our client base grew, it was always in the back of our heads that, ‘Yeah, we were gonna have to move and we didn’t screw it up, so we’re gonna have to find another location.’”
Finding an adequate building in Southampton Town proved to be difficult, Mr. Cariello said, as many of the structures that were available were not zoned for restaurants.
Todd Bourgard, the Coldwell Banker Trading Places real estate agent who helped Mr. Cariello and his business partners find a new location, said even once they found the property that they wanted—the former location of Ciao Bella Senhora on West Montauk Highway—orchestrating the actual purchase was quite difficult.
“These guys hung in there, this was no easy task,” Mr. Bourgard said Monday inside the restaurant’s new home. “This was kicking, screaming, pulling teeth to make this thing happen, so they really went above and beyond to stay within the town. They could have just as easily jumped to the North Fork, opened up [in] a restaurant there that’s out of business, and just started flying with it.”
The $910,000 deal that closed on Halloween is one of the biggest Hampton Bays commercial real estate transactions in the past five years, according to Mr. Bourgard, who estimated that it is second only to the Rechlers’ acquisition of the properties that once housed 1 North Steakhouse, Tide Runners Restaurant and the Canoe Place Inn.
Mr. Cariello said during the past six months he has received a lot of support from the community regarding his restaurant’s imminent closure, adding that many people wanted to petition to keep it open, along with neighboring Tide Runners, but he had to respectfully decline.
Although the old location, which had its final night of service this past Sunday, was technically on the Shinnecock Canal, Mr. Cariello joked that only one seat had a view that offered “5 inches of the canal,” while the other tables offered views of the dirt parking lot.
He added that his new location is better as it has its own parking lot and can seat more people. The town has yet to set an occupancy limit for the new restaurant, but based on the previous restaurant, Mr. Cariello estimates that he will be able to accommodate 125 people, or 50 more than he could at his former building. His new place boasts 40 bar seats, up from 12 at his old location.
“Knowing that we’re moving on to the next stage of the business plan and growing with the support of our customers and our staffs and our families, [the relocation is] more of a blessing,” he said.
Mr. Cariello said his wife, Lauren, his father, James, and his in-laws, Jamie and Dean Eichorn, are also involved in the business. James Cariello, who also owns Panorama Glass, Islandview Properties and Cariello Custom Building Incorporated, all in Hampton Bays, said he could not be more proud of his son and he expects the restaurant to do great things at its new location.
“It’s great, it’s wonderful, we managed to stay in Hampton Bays, which we like,” he said. “We keep plugging along here, and I think we’re gonna do this place many wonders.”