A former real estate agent is hoping to see his version of the American Dream come alive with the opening of Hurricane Grill & Wings in Hauppauge on Dec. 5.
Commack resident Steve Critelli is bringing the Florida-based restaurant chain to Hauppauge's Motor Parkway Plaza on Monday.
"I've really wanted to open a sports bar or family-friendly restaurant for a long time," he said. "But as much as you say you'd like to do something one day, you still have your day job. When the industry changes and you have to make a decision where to go, you think now would be the time to do it."
Critelli said the real estate market shrank dramatically between 2008 and 2009, at the beginning of the recession, causing him to look for different work. He started researching opening up a sports bar and first considered purchasing the former Eagle's Nest Pub, now , before coming across the Hurricane Grill & Wings brand.
"The concept of what they are bringing to New York is such a fresh idea, there's nothing like it. It's not another T.G.I. Fridays or Applebee's," Critelli said.
Hurricane Grill & Wings is a restaurant that's an equal mix of casual restaurant and a sports bar. It has two family dining areas that are separate and isolated from a wrap around sports bar area.
The restaurant is known for its signature wings, served up fresh daily in traditional style or boneless in 30 flavors, according to the company's website. The interior decor recreates a casual beach shack in whites, ocean blues, aged driftwood and tin roofs.
The chain has three locations on Long Island in Port Jefferson, Levittown and Syosset.
Critelli said the Hauppauge location was ideal to build in, being located on Motor Parkway right off Exit 55 off the Long Island Expressway and close to his Commack home. Hurricane Grill & Wings opens in one of the last available retail spaces in the
In order to prepare for the grand opening, Critelli said he underwent four weeks of extensive hands-on training at Hurricane Grill & Wings flagship in Florida. It as there he fell in love with the company's motto of "live with flavor."
"It was the right concept with the right value in the right area. The menu, concept and everything just came together at once," the owner said.
His family has been supportive of his change of career. So much so, that Critelli is the majority partner with his brother and father backing the restaurant.
The new restaurateur said he is hoping together they can bring a sense of family to their customers and 70 newly hired employees - a fraction of the nearly 400 who sent in applications looking for work.
"It's not a customer for us anymore, it's a guest. It's a guest in our house," Critelli said. "Everyone who comes in the door is a guest in our house and treat them as if they are in your home."
The Commack resident said he already has his sights set on expanding, with plans to open two more stores on Long Island.