How many times have you turned to someone you know and said: we should start a business together?
That’s exactly how it happened for Daniel Battaglia and Mark Romano when they thought up the idea for Twilight Café, the new Fifties-style retro restaurant the pair are opening in Harbor Square Mall.
The partnership was a natural. Romano owns Brewtopia across from the restaurant and Battaglia’s wife Ricki (a.k.a. Retro Ricki) owns 411 Boutique.
After watching the third owner close up shop within about two years, Romano turned to Battaglia and asked, “Why don’t we take over the snack bar?”
Battaglia's reply, “Let’s do this.”
Good food is going to be the centerpiece of Twilight Café with about 90 percent of everything homemade. Do it yourself is something these two know a lot about.
Battaglia designed and built just about everything in the new restaurant and Romano's stock-in-trade is craft beer and home brewing.
They know they’ve got their work cut out for them, which is why they set out from the beginning to differentiate themselves from the rest of the restaurants in the village.
“We’re only cooking what’s missing in Port Jefferson,” said Battaglia.
The place might be reminiscent of a 1950’s diner but it’s no burger joint. The offering of sandwiches will include London broil, chicken breast, pulled pork, sautéed vegetables and four-cheese grilled cheese with names like "The Lucille" and "The Rod Serling."
Prices will come in between $6.99 and $9.99 for a sandwich, according to Romano. Sauces, spreads and dips for sandwiches will all be homemade too with hummus, horse radish and roasted red pepper spreads on the menu. They even plan to offer Brooklyn Egg Creams mixed up right there in the kitchen.
Romano says they’re fighting the stigma left by some of the other people who opened and quickly closed up shop. (He said that one person never even got any further than hanging up a “coming soon” sign.)
“The food was never an issue,” he said. “The people were.”
One thing they set out to do was make sure that when potential customers walked into Twilight Café, they knew something different had opened up. In the past, patrons who came to the back of Harbor Square Mall just saw the same old thing.
“I want people to walk in and say ‘wow! I’ve never been here,” Romano said.
These guys think they’ve got the right formula. The challenge now is to make sure they get the traffic.
“We hope to increase that,” said Battaglia.
Romano said their job now is to create that crowd. He has experience turning around a business and attracting customers. he said that one of his last businesses was a bar in Lindenhurst that he bought with no customers. Two years later he and his partner sold it.
“At a tremendous profit," he said. "With customers.”
To kick off the opening on Friday, Battaglia is planning a hula-hoop contest at 7 p.m. They’re also looking to capitalize on the crowds coming to the village for Sunday’s Harvest Festival. Their entry into the annual chowder competition is a roasted potato clam chowder with beer made from scratch.
The Coca-Cola branded tables, the quarter jukebox that plays real 45s and the retro frieze depicting television shows from the Fifties and early Sixties running around the entire restaurant are all in place. Almost everything is ready for opening day. Twilight Cafe will start serving on Friday morning at 10 a.m.
“It might be limited and it might be confused but we will have good food,” said Romano.