When it comes to restaurateurs on Nassau County’s North Shore, Gillis and George Poll have a commanding lead. The brothers own a string of winners, which “bring an urban sophistication to Long Island” and keep diners coming back to their restaurants week after week, night after night.
In Roslyn, there’s Bryant and Cooper, their flagship operation, and nearby Hendrick’s Tavern. The bistro Bar Frites is at Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale. At the Americana Manhasset, there are Toku Modern Asian, Cipollini Trattoria and Bar and, for those who want to grab a quick bite on the go, Cipollini Pronto. The Poll brothers also own Majors, a more moderately priced steak house in East Meadow.
In March, the Poll Brothers are expanding to Westchester. The family style Italian restaurant in the Ridge Hill Shopping Center in Yonkers will be called Angelo’s. Three other deals for restaurants in Nassau County are pending, says Gillis.
What’s the secret to their success? “My philosophy is to give our customers the best quality,” Gillis explains. “We never cut corners.” They assemble “a wonderful staff -- the best we can establish” and make sure each restaurant is “a sharp-looking place.” Making sure the food is good keeps the restaurants hopping.
“Some restaurateurs think the customer doesn’t know,” he says. “I believe the customer does know and recognizes when you do it the right way -- the food, the design and the staff. They do know and they will come if you do it with the highest standards.”
On a Saturday night, the brothers serve more than 3000 meals, including 600 to 700 at Hendricks alone. The restaurants are busy even on Mondays, serving 150-200 meals at each location, with the numbers growing as the week goes on. Lunchtime also is hopping at the Americana Manhasset and Wheatley Plaza.
“People use our places all the time,” Gillis says, a home away from home. “It doesn’t have to be for a special event, if they want steak that night or sushi.” And businesses and groups entertain at their restaurants.
Gillis and George look at spaces, decide on concepts, develop and tweak menus and do the build-outs with designers and contractors together. George handles the wines and Gillis takes care of staffing. (A third brother, Dean, owns The Boathouse in Central Park and the newly renovated Gallagher’s in the theater district.) The restaurateurs filet their own lemon sole and butcher their own steaks.
Gillis, the eldest, was introduced at age 12 to the restaurant business by his father. When the brothers went on their own, it was their mother, Alexandra, “who helped make it happen,” Gillis says. “She took a chance and gave us the means to get the ball rolling.” “It was a long haul,” Gillis says, recalling the days when they had a jeep and a fish truck to travel. “Now its Mercedes and Bentleys. Step by step, the overnight success is only a lifetime, a 30- year overnight success.”
By bringing Manhattan to Long Island with a variety of venues and cuisines, Gillis and George’s clientele don’t have to go the city as much. The restaurateurs dine in their eateries on a regular basis, opting for Toku if they’re in the mood for Asian or Bryant and Cooper for steak, just like their clientele.
They don’t play favorites: Gillis put it this way: “They are all like our children. We love them all the same.”
Here’s a look at the Poll Brothers’ North Shore restaurants:
CIPOLLINI TRATTORIA & BAR
2110C Northern Boulevard
Location, location, location. Cipollini Trattoria and Bar opened in 2005 on the south side of the ultra-fashionable Americana Manhasset and has been hip and hot from the first moment. Cipollini has a Manhattan-style ambience, casual and sophisticated, and draws a chi-chi crowd for both lunch and dinner.
From the sidewalk cafe with tables shaded by umbrellas or warmed by outdoor heaters, to the indoor white marble bar, Cipollini’s is the place to see and be seen. The crowd is energetic; the noise level loud.
Inside the long, narrow dining room, the decor is casual yet chic, with dark wood paneling and wood floors, massive framed mirrors on the walls and spiffy oversized lampshades hanging from the high ceilings.
Cipollini’s offers southern Italian and Mediterranean specialties and a wood-burning pizza oven. The tuna tartar appetizer is awesome, the signature dish is a savory whole roasted branzino and the chicken salad -- a favorite among the ladies who lunch -- is swell, too. Wine by the glass comes in a small carafe, with enough to fill two glasses. Service is attentive and diners are never rushed. It’s a wonderful dining spot to come back to over and over again.
1305 Old Northern Boulevard
The Poll Brothers’ newest winner, Hendrick’s Tavern, on the landmark 1740 restored estate home of Hendrick Onderdonk, has a clubby, urban style with two bar areas, three private dining rooms, a VIP bar for cocktail parties and a ballroom for large, catered affairs. The main dining room exudes comfortable elegance with wood-paneled walls and burgundy leather banquettes, classic photographs and antique mirrors. The menu boasts the same dry-aged and prime steaks as the family’s nearby flagship, Bryant and Cooper, as well as a raw bar, comfort foods like mac and cheese and chicken wings, filet mignon sliders and panko-crusted avocado. Starters include a Maryland crab cake or a sashimi-style Ahi tuna poke and kale salad. Fish lovers can choose from Chatham cod, grilled branzino or seared Norwegian salmon. Sides range from lobster fried rice to homemade ‘tator’ tots and sweet corn on the cob.
For dessert, don’t miss the white chocolate cloud cake reminiscent of an oversized ring ding or indulge in a sticky bun with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. To finish up guilt free, enjoy a heaping fruit platter with pineapple, grapes, melons and berries.
TOKU MODERN ASIAN
2014 Northern Blvd
Sophisticated and sleek, Toku Modern Asian is a gem. It fits right in with shops like Prada, Chanel and Hermes, its neighbors at the Americana Manhasset. The menu is varied; the food is fresh, flavorful and well prepared. The stunning decor is modern yet comfortable. The ambiance, the service and the delicious, beautifully-presented dishes are all winners.
The cuisine at this swanky dining star is predominantly Japanese with influences from China, Korea and South East Asia, designed by owners Gillis and George Poll to include their favorites with a unique twist. Hence, the menu, which is designed for sharing, reflects “the best of the best.”
Anything goes, from traditional appetizer, entree and dessert to ordering sushi exclusively or sharing various appetizers and skewers.
Among the winners are the Asian Caesar salad with crunchy wontons, cashews and ginger aioli, the tasty calamari salad and the crisp tuna spring rolls. Western entrees have an Asian kick, such as braised short ribs with pad Thai noodles, sweet soy marinated skirt steak with wok sautéed bok choy and Chilean Sea Bass with Maitake mushrooms, Asian salsa and black bean sauce.
Among the house rolls are the Pacific King with king crab, avocado, Asian pear, wasabi-avocado crème and the Americana featuring Maine lobster tail tempura, asparagus and spicy sauce. Top the meal off with a Fuji Tatin, a roasted Fuji apple tart with a calvados reduction, a warm brownie with green tea Chantilly creme or be good and opt for a delicious seasonal exotic fruit plate.
BAR FRITES RESTAURANT
400 Wheatley Plaza
A classic bistro, Bar Frites holds court in the midst of Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale with a covered outdoor dining area that’s packed on good weather days. Appetizers range from homemade chicken noodle soup to boneless wok seared frog legs to macaroni made with mornay sauce, emmenthal and gruyere cheeses. Among the slider choices are
Asian salmon burgers and petite filet mignon served with lettuce, tomato and sweet garlic aioli on an onion roll.
Main course options include a variety of fish, such as whole crispy black bass chinois or grilled filet of branzino. Steak frite aficionados can choose from hanger steak, prime sirloin or filet mignon, with french fries and a choice of sauce: chimmichurri, peppercorn, bordelaise, béarnaise, Roquefort or maitre’d butte. Or, for an entree, try the brasserie meat loaf, lamb T-bones or the omelette du jour.
For dessert, savor the crème brulee, molten chocolate cake or the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.
BRYANT & COOPER STEAKHOUSE
2 Middle Neck Road
No matter the night, no matter the season, Bryant and Cooper’s unparalleled fare draws the “in” crowd to the dark paneled dining room. Among the perennially popular starters at the granddaddy of the Poll brothers’ restaurants are the grand cold seafood platter, stone crabs - fresh in season from Joe’s in Miami and tuna tartar. Dive into their signature salad -- jumbo shrimps chopped into 1/2 inch pieces, string beans, beefsteak tomatoes, onions, crumbled bacon and pimentos, dressed with a dash of red vinegar and olive oil. For the main course, there’s the exceptional porterhouse for two or more, a succulent sirloin, velvety 10 oz. filet mignon, jumbo three to four pound lobsters and fresh, grilled fish, with fresh vegetables on the side. For dessert, opt for crème brulee, cheesecake or a fresh fruit platter.
2110 Northern Boulevard
This is the place to go for a cup of joe and a melt-in-your-mouth brownie or a quick lunch, packed for takeout, or enjoyed at the white marble communal high table with 12 stools. Tucked into the walkway around the corner from Cipollini at the Americana Manhasset, lots of umbrella tables outside make Pronto a great choice in nice weather.
The winning choices go beyond the Tuscan tomato soup and shrimp salad, tuna wraps, baguette sandwiches, paninis with roast turkey or Brie and pancetta. There’s ready-to-go grilled salmon, white bean salad and hot dishes like stuffed peppers and tomatoes and spanakopita.