09/16/13 5:18pm
09/16/2013 5:18 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bill Claudio at the bar at Claudio's.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Bill Claudio at the bar at Claudio’s.

Bill Claudio remembers receiving a phone call from his brother-in-law one spring day in 1989, asking if he’d have any interest in partnering to purchase their family’s restaurant in Greenport.

Mr. Claudio says he didn’t have to think much before giving his initial answer.

“I told him, ‘No I don’t [have any interest],’” he recalled in a recent interview.

Today, he’s glad he changed his mind.

Claudio’s is recognized by the National Restaurant Association as the oldest, same-family run restaurant in America. Now owned by the fourth generation of Claudio family members, this year marked 143 years since the popular eatery, located at the end of Main Street, was first opened as Claudio’s Tavern.

For the past 24 years, Claudio’s has been perhaps most closely associated with Mr. Claudio, though his family’s business, which has expanded to include the neighboring Claudio’s Clam Bar and Crabby Jerry’s, is owned by a corporation that includes his wife, Jan, sisters Kathy and Beatrice, and Jerry Tuthill, the brother-in-law who first approached him about purchasing Claudio’s from Bill’s father, William Claudio Sr.

This year, Bill Claudio, 75, is being honored as Grand Marshal of the annual Greenport Maritime Festival Parade. Though his office is located just below his childhood bedroom, newcomers to the area might be surprised to learn he hasn’t spent his entire career in the restaurant business. In fact, after a successful career in sales, largely in the aviation industry, it’s easy to understand why Mr. Claudio first told his brother-in-law “no.”

Mr. Claudio’s love of planes stems largely from his adolescent dream of flying in the Air Force. After a brief stint at the Coast Guard Academy, he spent four years in the Air Force and then attended Parks College of Aeronautical Technology at St. Louis University. In 1963, he re-enlisted and spent seven more as an Air Force  fighter pilot.

As a Vietnam war-era captain, he flew 216 combat missions for the Air Force, earning 20 air medals among his various citations.

He describes his time in the military as among the most exhilarating in his life. “Only wild and crazy guys get to fly fighters,” he said with a smile, before detailing some of the harrowing circumstances he and his fellow pilots were forced to endure.

After leaving the the military in 1970, he turned down an opportunity to fly for Delta Airlines because, he says, he’d already done the best type of flying there is.

Later, after several years in real estate in Atlanta and Colorado, he returned to an aviation-related field in his native Long Island, when he went to work for the Hazeltine Corporation in Greenlawn. He served four years as Hazeltine’s director of international marketing, focusing mostly on selling black box equipment for aircraft throughout Asia. He left to take a job with MCI when it was just a startup in Washington, D.C.

In the later stages of his career before the restaurant, he bought and sold jets for an aircraft company in Maryland. (He says he once bought a jet from a Saudi prince and flipped it to international crooner Julio Iglesias.)

After returning to Long Island to work for Beechcraft, Mr. Claudio received that 1989 phone call from Mr. Tuthill. After he demurred on purchasing the restaurant his father had owned since 1930, his brother-in-law convinced him to consider an idea he had for expanding the business. Just a year earlier, Mr. Tuthill and his wife, Beatrice, known as “Beatsy,” had opened a smaller Claudio’s Clam Bar adjacent to the main restaurant.

Mr. Claudio said Mr. Tuthill drove him to Island Park, showed him the Paddy McGee’s restaurant complex and explained that this was something he envisioned Claudio’s could become. Suddenly intrigued by the idea of owning multiple waterfront bars and restaurants around a marina in his hometown, Mr. Claudio was on board. It was a business plan he believed could work.

“In today’s economy, you grow or you die,” he said.

But it’s not just change that he credits with keeping his family business as successful as ever, despite the many other great restaurants that have popped up on the North Fork. He says a combination that also includes a level of consistency has been the secret to the Claudios’ success.

“What makes this place work is that it’s been run by the same family,” he said. “But we’ve also hired superb employees, some who have been with us since day one in 1989. If you don’t have talent on your side, it doesn’t work.”

Though initially reluctant to return to the family business, Mr. Claudio said he’s always had a fondness for Greenport. That’s why he’ll be smiling from ear to ear when he leads the parade through the one downtown that’s always been home.

“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the world,” he says of the village. “I have a deep admiration for Sydney, Australia, and the Australian people. I once could have settled there. I also love Singapore. I could have settled there, too. But wherever I was in this world, and I’ve been to so many countries, I was always thinking of Greenport.”

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06/20/13 8:00am

CLAIRE LEADEN PHOTO | Allison Williams films a scene for HBO’s “Girls” outside Claudio’s in Greenport.

They’re among the most popular female entertainers in the world today.

One, a spunky 27-year-old writer, claimed a best actress Golden Globe award this year for her work on the popular HBO series she created herself.

The other, a Grammy Award-winning chart-topper of the same age, was listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

Lena Dunham and Lady Gaga are two influential, young, feminist entertainers — and they both spent part of this week on the North Fork.

Oh, yes. Music legend Billy Joel, Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover girl Kate Upton and Golden Globe-nominated actress Cameron Diaz were here, too.

This may not be the Hamptons, but it felt like it for star-struck fans who spotted their favorite entertainers this week at restaurants and filming locations in their hometown.

The star-studded week actually began to develop last summer, when Ms. Dunham spent a weekend at the North Fork home of a “Girls” director, two of the show’s producers said.

“She really liked the North Fork, so she thought, ‘Let’s shoot an episode here,’ ” executive producer Ilene Landress said. “We’re really thrilled to be out here. It’s gorgeous.”

SEE PHOTOS FROM THE ‘GIRLS’ SET

After scouting trips to the area this spring, the “Girls” crew, with part-time local resident Jesse Peretz behind the camera, filmed for parts of the past two weeks at a waterfront home in East Marion, dockside at Claudio’s restaurant and at The Market on Front Street in Greenport Village. Filming finally wrapped this Tuesday, when the series’ four title characters shot scenes in the heart of the village in front of a group of local fans, who were granted a front row view of all the action.

“It’s crazy that they’re filming here; it’s so awesome,” said Danielle Rodger of Greenport. “I can’t believe they’re just sitting right there in front of us.

“It’s nice that they’re not too protective of the space and we can just sit here with our children and watch them film,” she added.

And a trip to the North Fork was a welcome break from New York City for the cast and crew of the show.

“It’s not vacation because we’re still working, but it feels like vacation to us,” said “Girls” associate producer Ericka Naegle. “It’s a nice break from the city. It’s never a bad thing when the monitors are set up right next to a harbor.”

HBO spokeswoman Tobe Becker said the scenes are being filmed for an episode in season three that will air in 2014. According to a tweet from one of the film’s producers, the North Fork-themed episode is the seventh of the season.

The “Girls” team wasn’t alone in taking a break from the city to film on the East End this week.

Ms. Upton, Ms. Diaz and actress Leslie Mann — whose husband, Judd Apatow, coincidentally co-wrote the “Girls” episode filming here this week — were shooting scenes in Quogue for the upcoming film “The Other Woman.” The Nick Cassavetes-helmed picture is due for release in 2014.

The popular trio of actresses took a break from filming last Thursday night to have dinner with Lady Gaga, whose boyfriend has a role in the movie, at Jerry and the Mermaid restaurant on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead.

Restaurant owner Jerry Dicecco said the stars were celebrating Ms. Upton’s 21st birthday that night.

“It was a really great bunch of people — they had a lot of fun, enjoyed the food and they were really nice to me and my staff,” Mr. Dicecco said. “It was great for the restaurant and for downtown Riverhead itself because of all of the changes that are being made in town in general. It was really nice to see such a famous group of people come in and patronize our small businesses. We were just really proud to serve them.”

Public relations pro Nicole Starr Castillo of WordHampton said the same group of stars also dined at The Riverhead Project. She added that the “Girls” crew enjoyed a meal at Noah’s in Greenport last Monday night.

Mr. Joel sailed into Greenport Wednesday afternoon on his boat, “Alexa.” He docked and shopped at Preston’s.

The celebrity sightings certainly made it feel like the Hamptons here, but one line of dialogue from the “Girls” episode helps to put things back in perspective.

In one scene, the character Shoshanna, played by actress Zosia Mamet, gets off a bus, steps out near Claudio’s and says to her friends, “Wow, I can’t believe we’re here in the Hamptons.”

Marnie, played by Allison Williams, quickly corrects her.

“No, this is the North Fork,” Marnie says. “It’s actually very different.”

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11/16/12 12:49pm
11/16/2012 12:49 PM

FACEBOOK IMAGE | The Greenport BID will hold its annual meeting tonight at 5:30 p.m.

The Greenport Business Improvement District will hold its annual meeting at Claudio’s Restaurant in Greenport tonight at 5:30 p.m.

There will be a presentation on the proposed budget for the next fiscal year and the election of four members.

Last year, the BID elected Peter Clarke of Clarke’s Garden as its new president. He succeeded Mike Acebo of Brewer’s Yacht Yard, who had led the BID since its inception in 1994.

Read more about tonight’s meeting in the Nov. 22 issue of The Suffolk Times in both our print and electronic editions.

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07/27/12 5:00am
07/27/2012 5:00 AM

CLIFF CLARK PHOTO | The crowd at a fundraiser for the Joe Theinert memorial scholarship at Claudio’s in Greenport on the evening of Monday, July 16. In its third year, it raised a record amount.

This summer’s cruise aboard the South Ferry’s Lt. Joe Theinert boat to a dinner gala at Claudio’s netted $30,000 for the Lt. Joe Theinert Memorial Fund, according to South Ferry president Cliff Clark.

The event was originated by Steve Pisacano, manager of Claudio’s Clam Bar in Greenport.

Set up by the Shelter Islander’s family, the fund raises money to help veterans and provide scholarships. Lt. Thienert was killed in Afghanistan in June 2010 and the first fundraiser was held only weeks later.

Mr. Clark said Mr. Pisacano approached him in 2010 “shortly after Joey was killed when he read we renamed the Southern Cross the Lt. Joe Theinert and said he wanted to do something in Joey’s honor. He asked if we would consider bringing the boat to the dock so the partygoers could see the boat and walk on board in Joey’s honor. Of course I said I would.”

According to Mr. Clark, the event raised somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000. In year two, it raised a bit more “and this year the net is right at $30,000,” he said.

Lt. Theinert’s Bravo Troop comrades from Ft. Drum attended the event, which was held July 16 and drew 125 people on board the boat, Mr. Clark said.

07/19/11 1:16pm
07/19/2011 1:16 PM

As the Fourth of July came and passed, Claudio’s was a game under .500 at 4-5, sitting in fourth place in the Greenport Men’s Softball League and in danger of falling out of playoff position. Claudio’s was coming off of a tough 10-9 loss to Southold Fish Market and had a full week off between June 29 and July 6 to try to regroup.

It did just that.

Fueled by 16-year-old center fielder Sean Charters’ first ever start in the leadoff spot, the run began with a 20-4 mercy-rule victory over Kreiger Well/Pure Water on July 6. Charters, the youngest player in the league, went 4 for 6 with six runs batted in to ignite a Claudio’s offense that hadn’t scored 10 or more runs in a game since June 20.

The offensive outburst continued the following Monday with just nine players in a league where 10 are typically played defensively. Shorthanded, Claudio’s fought to a 28-14 victory over third-place Founders Tavern. In the two teams’ only previous meeting this season, Founders pitcher John Hansen pitched a shutout to lead his team to a 12-0 win. However, this time around, Claudio’s focused on small ball and proved to itself that it belongs in the top half of the league.

“Not only with the playoffs around the corner were those wins big for momentum, but the victory over Founder’s was key to assuring our guys we can compete with the top tier teams,” said Claudio’s catcher Matthew Vescovi.

The next night, Claudio’s followed up the big win with another mercy victory, this time over Pete’s Boys, 18-3. Finally, to earn its fourth win in eight days and third in three nights, Claudio’s took down last-place East End Pool King, 16-7, last Wednesday.

Over its four-game win streak, Claudio’s has outscored its opponents, 72-28, and pitcher John Condon has been hot both on the mound and with the bat. At one point during the winning streak, Condon went 15 for 19 while giving up an average of only seven runs per game. As of the beginning of this week, Claudio’s was 8-5 and sat only a half-game behind Founders Tavern for third place. Claudio’s also developed a more comfortable lead over fifth-place Hubbard Equipment at two and a half games.

With two-thirds of the season complete, Claudio’s looks to continue the momentum it has built and make a deep playoff push. “It’s all about playing small ball and good defense for us,” Claudio’s utility player Kyle Charters said. “If we try to outslug any of these teams, we are going to get ourselves in trouble. That’s not our game and I think we’ve finally realized that.”