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Claudio's in Greenport operated under a new ownership group for the first time in 2018. It will reopen for the season Memorial Day weekend. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

When dining at Claudio’s Restaurant this summer, guests may want to consider asking for a seat upstairs. The space, usually an afterthought for people who headed straight to the neighboring clam bar, has been renovated to include a wine room with waterfront views, lounge area and full-service bar. 

“It’s going to be a place you want to go to have a party or a great dinner. It’s going to be where people say, ‘Hey can I sit upstairs, as opposed to, ‘That’s all you have?’” said Ryan Sasson, part of the group that bought the restaurant in 2018.

Those changes are just a few of the many patrons can expect when they return to the iconic waterfront restaurant complex, which also includes Crabby Jerry’s and is now in its second season under new ownership. Despite ongoing renovations, Claudio’s is still planning a Memorial Day weekend opening.

The downstairs of the main restaurant building will have a different feel too. The owners have removed the banquettes to open up the bar area and mixed in high tops to give it a tavern look.

”Making [the long bar] the focal point of the room and opening it up so people can enjoy that was really our number one priority,” Sasson said. “People can see out the windows much nicer to the waterfront, and I think people are going to be really excited on how that feels and the mix of the brand new restaurant with this affinity for holding onto this 149-year institution that Claudio’s is.”

That’s the fine line Sasson and his fellow co-owners know they must walk at Claudio’s. They want to update the space but know there’s a tradition there — one that locals and longtime summer vacationers have come to expect.

Sasson said he understands the concerns because he was once a patron, too. He grew up in Manhattan but spent many summers in Sag Harbor, where he and his family and friends would sail over to Greenport and hang out at Claudio’s.

“This was a passion project, not just a piece of real estate that we were buying,” Sasson said.

That’s why they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Claudio’s Clam Bar, despite it now being called Claudio’s Waterfront. For safety reasons, the bulkheads needed to be redone. The awning got a facelift, too. It will be higher and have electric panels on the side to allow the staff to close it if the weather is poor and cross-ventilate the area. They also added a stage for the live music acts the space has become known for.

“The Clam Bar space has kind of become the heart and soul of that property,” Sasson said.

The menus are still in their final stages of being developed for the new season, but you can count on old favorites like oysters from the raw bar and lobster rolls. The Oysters Claudio’s will be made with local oysters, wild spinach, aged cheddar and applewood smoked bacon, and the local diver scallops with be lightly caramelized and served with potato-horseradish purée. Landlocked guests may wish to indulge in the Grilled Rib Eye, a 22 oz. bone-in-prime rib steak that comes with sides of a twice baked potato and charred broccoli. Last year, the wine list grew to more than 120 selections, including those from local vineyards such as Bridge Lane, Channing Daughters and Roanoke. Sasson hopes to continue to add to it this year.

Other initiatives, such as planned outdoor seating and more green space for people to sit with their families, are still pending local approval. Instead, Sasson said they will focus on having the restaurant, waterfront and Crabby Jerry’s run like an efficient unit rather than three separate restaurants. There is a new planned events calendar, and Sasson hopes it helps turn the space into more of a destination.

Sasson is also committed to working with the Greenport community. They are planning to host an event for locals and regulars on Friday, May 24 with drink specials, live music and no cover charge.

“I wouldn’t say a grand re-opening party but a ‘Thank you for sticking with us. We’re here to stay, and we want you to see what your Claudio’s looks like first,” Sasson said.