'Legends Will Continue To Be Legends': North Fork Eatery Changes Hands

NEW SUFFOLK, NY — A new day dawned at the iconic Legends in New Suffolk this week as a change in ownership was announced after more than 30 years.

“It is with great pleasure that we announce the new ownership of Legends Restaurant by Andrea Tese,” a post on Facebook read on February 1. “As a local proprietor who also owns Minnow at the Galley Ho across the street, Ms. Tese is intimately familiar with the impact that Legends has had on the North Fork community, having grown up in its midst.”

The post added: “You can rest assured that despite this change in ownership, everything that you know and cherish about Legends will remain unchanged. Andrea is dedicated to preserving the essence and charm of Legends, ensuring that the exceptional staff will continue to provide the same warm and attentive service, and the beloved menu will remain a cornerstone of its appeal. Upon your return to Legends, you will encounter the warm, familiar and exceptional dining experience that has solidified its place in the hearts of the community. We can’t wait to see you.”

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The eatery has long been a touchstone for the North Fork community under the helm of Diane and Dennis Harkoff, who had owned the business since 1993.

And now, Tese told Patch, her plans are to keep the Legends that so many know and love, true to its roots.

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Tese said she and her sister Lauren Tese Warwick, who will co-own the business, officially closed on the deal Thursday.

“The main reason that we acquired Legends is that we didn’t want it to fall into the wrong hands,” she said. “New Suffolk is such a special place — and it should remain that way.”

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Tese, who has spent her life on the water fishing, has already shaped Minnow — the former Case’s Place, and before that, the legendary Galley Ho — with her focus on sustainability-minded seafood.

“Legends will not be Minnow,” she said. “It would be extremely difficult to only serve line-caught local seafood year round. However, we will slowly be making changes to the seafood selections to make them more sustainable and in line with marine conservation. For example, we are researching sustainable salmon options that we can use in place of the Norwegian one currently on the menu. We do not want to support fisheries” that support commercial whaling, she said.

The two restaurants will enhance one another, she said: “Minnow and Legends are the New Suffolk experience! They are perfect complements to one another.”

When asked what’s head for Legends, Tese responded: “The plan is for Legends to stay Legends. They say, ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and we agree. The staff is all staying, including our chef David Miguel. Of course there will be tweaks and updates, but the intention is to take our time and be very mindful.”

Having grown up in New Suffolk, Tese has been long inspired to pour her heart into the dining spaces long iconic on the North Fork canvas.

“The community in New Suffolk is old time, small town, America in a way that you don’t see very often in this part of the country anymore,” she said. “It is largely undeveloped, quaint and unpretentious. It’s a little salty. It’s naturally stunning. And it’s fun. In my opinion, what I just described is pretty close to perfection. “

For now, Tese said, both the dining and cocktail menus at Legends will remain the same.

As a woman who has grown up on local waters, Tese’s journey to shape the face of the New Suffolk waterfront is a journey that is deeply personal.

“It means everything,” she said. “My Sicilian great-grandparents started coming out to New Suffolk 100 years ago. I have a photograph of them all fishing on a boat in the bay. My grandfather used to take long swims to Robins Island. My father taught me how to crab at nighttime off the bridge. This is my home. I have a lot of history here — and I do not take my responsibilities to the community and to the waterfront lightly.”

Legends plays a big part in Tese’s own memories.

“I remember when Legends was Bonnie’s By The Bay,” she said. “These places are my past, present and future. I would like to safeguard and enhance them. I want to update the spaces I grew up in just enough to make them relevant and viable, but not too much as to take away their history and charm.”

Tese hosted a party Sunday night to toast the Harkoffs and to celebrate the changing of hands.

Next Sunday, plans include a Super Bowl party around 4 p.m. with a throwing competition out front, prizes, a raffle, and bar food.

“We are working on defining set hours of operation, so stay tuned, but I do know that we would like to bring back the late night menu,” she said.

And, to customers old and new, Tese has a message: “Legends will continue to be Legends.”

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