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Outdoor dining met with praise in East Meadow


East Meadow entered Phase II of reopening on June 10 and many restaurants created outdoor seating arrangements for patrons to dine-in and to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Most residents were pleased to be reuniting with loved ones and eating meals in-person again, including cousins Sunny Grosso, 64, of Merrick, and Anthony Vetrano, 54, of Shirley, who have not seen each other since January.

The two would frequent Borrelli’s every Wednesday before the coronavirus pandemic. When they heard Borrelli’s created an outdoor dining section under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s requirements for Phase Two of reopening, the cousins said they knew they had to go back to their favorite spot.

Neither was anxious about dining out again, but instead “inquisitive,” Grosso said, as to what it would entail. At most restaurants, like Borrelli’s, guests are required to wear a mask, but could remove it while at their table eating.

“I’m very pleasantly surprised,” he said. “We feel like we’re on vacation. It’s quartered off nicely, it’s quiet . . . They did a great job.”

Frank Borrelli, the owner of Borrelli’s Italian Restaurant in East Meadow, opened the restaurant’s dining area again on June 24, seating 40 people in its back room and 40 in its main room. Typically, Borrelli’s can accommodate 180 diners. With an additional 40 seats in its new outdoor dining area, the restaurant can now operating at two-thirds capacity.

The outdoor dining area is sectioned off with a wooden fence, decorated with palm trees, and, three nights a week, features live music. “It definitely doesn’t feel like you’re sitting in a parking lot in East Meadow,” Borrelli said with a laugh.

“We missed this so much, we went out every night,” said Pat Arcoro who was with her husband Matt, eating lunch at Borrelli’s shortly after it reopened.

They were also impressed at how restaurants like Borrelli’s have operated their new outdoor dining options. “Everybody’s doing it the right way,” she said. “That lets you relax and you feel good about your meal again.”

“I love every minute of it,” said a woman named Kris and her daughter Joanne added, with a laugh, “We want to sleep here.”

“I feel normal again, let’s put it that way,” Joanne said.

Meanwhile, at the Grand Stage Diner, the seating capacity has been reduced to 80 percent in its new outdoor dining area. In February 2019, Argyris and his sons George and Nick opened the diner under its new name and it has since become a staple of the community.

John Horak, 77, of East Meadow, has dined at the Grand Stage Diner, in East Meadow, for breakfast every day since it reopened. “I live close and I’m not that crazy about cooking,” he said. “And this is my favorite stomping ground.”

Horak explained that the reopening process has appeared disjointed when it comes to the differences in dates on a federal, state and local level. He likened the way in which the governors decide on reopening dates to a caller pulling a ball from a Bingo cage. “ “But it looks like we’re coming out of it,” he said. “I don’t think we’re ever going to go back to normal, but at least we’ll have some form of life again.”