Aug. 2, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The Waterfront Crabhouse, a Long Island City institution that closed two years ago, will officially reopen tonight after being revamped by two local entrepreneurs who have kept much of its history alive.
Joseph Lucil and Skinny Lee, who together own Skinny’s Cantina and Kavala Estiatorio, will reopen the restaurant at 5pm tonight.
The establishment, called the Crabhouse Restaurant, is the latest incarnation of the local hangout that Tony Mazzarella ran in the same location for nearly 40 years.
Long known as a hub of community life, the new owners pay tribute to the memory of what the restaurant used to be, while updating it to put their own mark on the venue.
The design showcases the exposed brick walls that were always part of the structure of the restaurant, and uses ivy to pay homage to the chandeliers that hung in the space in the 1880s.
The new owners made sure not to forget Mazzarella’s legacy as a pillar of the community during the update.
Lee dealt directly with Mazzarella’s family through the process of taking over the restaurant, said Event Coordinator Amanda Pierce.
“He really respects what they did over the years and has a strong relationship with them,” Pierce said. She added that he might even try to get some of the boxing memorabilia that hung on the restaurant walls from the family to display.
Though the new owners respected much of what made the Waterfront Crab House unique, they have also made some significant changes.
The menu will still include crabs and seafood, but also includes a raw bar and full steakhouse menu, including a wide variety of steaks and sides a la carte. They plan to add a brunch menu in the near future.
The upstairs space that was not used for several decades has also been renovated and will be used as a private event space called the Gantry Loft, explained Pierce. It will be used to host large-scale parties and events, including weddings.
“Taking it over has been awesome because the community has been so excited about watching the progress of the rebuilding of the inside,” said Pierce.
The Waterfront Crab House closed in February 2015, right after Mazzarella died, and for a while it was unclear what would happen with the building.
Lucil and Lee took over the lease in July 2015 and announced that they planned on keeping it open as a crab house, though they expected to open by the beginning of this year.
“The community is showing a ton of excitement and support that the venue is still a crab house,” Pierce said.
The owners celebrated the opening of Crabhouse on Saturday night with a party that was open to the community, offering free food and drinks to everyone in attendance.
The party was such a huge success, Pierce claimed, that they had to push the official opening back until today—instead of Monday– in order to restock on food and drinks.
“People keep coming in and sharing their stories about the restaurant, and I look forward to continue hearing what the restaurant used to be,” Pierce said.
“We keep getting all this information from the older community who saw it grow in different stages, and many call it a second home or remember their family dinners here. We’re thinking that we will learn more and more as we are open and talk to the community more,” she added.
Crabhouse will be open from Tuesday to Friday from 5 to 10:30 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 10:30 p.m.