One of Glen Cove’s newest hot spots celebrated its first anniversary this month, throwing a party for guests to mark the occasion. Meritage Wine Bar at 90 School St. in Glen Cove opened its doors last August and has been growing a strong customer base ever since, as people flock to the upscale tapas style restaurant for its large selection of wine, variety of farm fresh food and cozy yet chic ambiance in the heart of downtown Glen Cove. For owner Alex Fiorentino, the first year has been a rewarding experience and underscores his choice to bring a wine bar to this city.
“In doing my research I noticed there was no place for ‘adults’ to go—no place for a quiet night out with quality food and a comfortable atmosphere,” Fiorentino said. “We wanted to give people an opportunity to have that.”
Fiorentino worked in restaurant management for about 15 years, mostly in Manhattan, but also in Washington DC, Boston and Connecticut, and by his mid-30s, decided it was time to go out on his own. A Syosset native, he returned to Long Island and began researching locations for his new venture.
“I fell in love with Glen Cove. It’s a community, full of locals, people who know each other and support one another—you don’t see that in a lot of places,” said Fiorentino. “It was foreign to me and it’s beautiful to see. It was a no-brainer that Glen Cove is the place to be.”
Though he went to school to become a teacher, Fiorentino feels most passionate about owning and operating restaurants.
“I love how the hospitality business brings a new energy on a daily basis, and the relationships you build with the staff and customers is strong,” he said. “Also, when someone comes in and you can tell they’ve had a bad day, and they leave in a better mood than when they came in, you know you did your job. It’s a very visceral feeling and the job is a lot of fun.”
The menu at Meritage changes every two weeks or so, based on what ingredients are in season and available. Executive chef Howard Fay decides the menu of locally sourced farm fresh food—Fiorentino said that 99 percent of the food comes from within a 200 mile radius. Meritage serves brunch, lunch and dinner and has space for private parties. Some of the most popular items are the seafood paella—a “killer dish,” according to Fiorentino—as well as small plates like the seared scallops and arancini. Guests can also enjoy the meat and cheese boards and a large selection of spreads with pita bread.
Additionally, Meritage has a happy hour menu from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. with specials such as a margarita pizza and bottle of wine for $30 or a meat and cheese board with a bottle of wine for $30. On Saturday nights, there’s a DJ from 9:30 p.m. until close.
For the anniversary, guests including city officials, members of the Downtown Business Improvement District and Glen Cove Chamber of Commerce turned out for a free party with cocktails, wine and hors d’oeuvres, showing support for the wine bar.
Within Glen Cove, Fiorentino said he’s found a solid group of regular customers and feels that the community has accepted the restaurant.
“I really get to know my customers, I know them by name, I even know their kids’ names,” said Fiorentino. “There’s no substitution for the real experience.”