A bright blue bungalow has popped up on the shores of Tappen Beach, just in time for the summer. Inside, the dedicated staff of Blu Iguana, a new restaurant that opened Memorial Day weekend, is serving up “fun modern Mexican” food for hungry beachgoers of all ages.
“We’ve been getting a lot of good response from the customers that we’ve had,” said owner Roy Monaco, of Bellport. “Everybody seems to enjoy the food and the atmosphere, and naturally you can’t beat the view.”
Blu Iguana has replaced Carlisle’s Seafood Shack. What was formerly a dreary old building that blended in with the nearby sands has been transformed, with a fresh coat of teal paint, 360 floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that give way to the sunshine, and casual seating indoors and out on the patio.
Monaco teamed up with seasoned restaurateur Joe DiGirolomo, the Iguana’s general manager. DiGirolomo originated the popular Italian dining destination Ciao Baby, which formerly had a location in Carle Place. “I had a lot of customers from this area [at that location], and I always wanted to own a Mexican restaurant because I love the food,” he said.
Instead of opening yet another seafood spot on the shores of the Long Island Sound, the partners brought Mexican-inspired dishes to their restaurant, which includes a bar and a walk-up window for those who want to get their food to go. Keeping true to his Italian roots, DiGirolomo had a pizza oven installed in the kitchen.
The to-go window gives customers an added dining option. “It shows that we’re going to do some fun, casual food for people who go to the beach with their family,” he said. “They don’t have to sit down and have a full lunch.”
While most waterfront restaurants have a reputation of not giving much bang for your buck, Blu Iguana offers moderate pricing for a satiating selection of modern Mexican meals. The most popular appetizer is the restaurant’s play on a rice ball. Blu Iguana’s version still comes stuffed with seasoned ground beef, but is topped with pico de gallo, and served on a bed of fresh guacamole. Monaco’s favorite main course item is the skirt steak tacos.
Glen Cove resident Patricia Holman raved about the food. “My daughter and I had the tostada salad with seared tuna and it was incredible,” she said. “My friend had a shrimp dish and said it might be the best thing he has had in a longtime.”
Sea Cliff resident Maddie Citko’s 3-year-old palette found the guacamole to be “yummy,” and the location to be an added plus. “You can eat right on the beach, and watch pretty sunsets,” she said.
There was much buzz on local Facebook groups about Blu Iguana’s soft opening, causing concern from a few neighbors that the wet bar would attract a more rambunctious crowd, but DiGirolomo said he sees no issue. “I have no concern at all because it’s been here for years, and I wouldn’t assume it was an issue before,” he said. Additionally, some residents who patronized the new restaurant were less than flattering with their reviews about the service, to which DiGirolomo said, “Just have patience.”
“We are new, and we are going to get it,” he added. “We’ve definitely showed we don’t want to be a fly-by-night, seasonal place, and customers can tell we put care in to what we do.”
Blu Iguana is located at 494 Prospect Ave. in Sea Cliff, and is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and offers Sunday brunch from 12 to 3 p.m.