If it wasn’t clear that Sagaponack’s iconic Old Stove Pub has entered a bright, new era since Joseph DeCristofaro took over the restaurant last year, the announcement that the 54-year-old eatery’s first-ever satellite location is coming to Manhattan should serve as definitive proof.
In the restaurant’s founding years, it struggled to find any identity at all— opening in 1967 as Irish pub Flynn’s Inn, then changing its name to The 19th Hole before being purchased by Vasiliki “Mama Bessie” Johnides and her children in 1969 and being permanently rebranded Old Stove Pub. A Greek family, the Johnides clan switched up the menu to serve what they knew best — exclusively Greek cuisine and wine curated by Coula Johnides. Spanakopita, taramosalata and saganaki were popular choices, but none were as well-loved as the Sagaponack steak. It became a weathered but comfortable fixture in the community over the decades, with late-night karaoke accompanied by an out-of-tune piano and A-list clientele — including Billy Joel, Ralph Lauren, Larry Rivers, Andy Warhol and John F. Kennedy Jr. — piling into the rapidly aging farmhouse.
“When I was growing up, my father had a jukebox at the restaurant. I remember going there to change the 45s, and having a great steak,” current owner and Southampton local DeCristofaro recalls. “It was a very popular restaurant frequented by celebrities, socialites and the locals.”
When Coula and the founding Johnides family members retired after decades of ownership, fresh faces took the reins in the years that followed — including Colin Ambrose, Tim Salouros and George Gounelas. However, with frequently changing leadership seeming to have a different visions for the restaurant, Old Stove Pub’s identity and reputation began to shift again. Then, following property owner Coula Johnides’ death in 2018, Old Stove Pub was closed and put up for sale.
“For the last eight to nine years, the restaurant’s reputation was not very good, and it was closed for two years before I took over,” DeCristofaro says. “After the original owners retired, it went downhill sadly, after years of being a great restaurant.”
While there were some who considered the century-old structure’s worn-down aesthetic charming, the new property owner knew it was time for more than a fresh coat of paint. When major renovations were completed in 2020, the owner was so delighted with the results, that he instructed DeCristofaro, the property’s broker, to take Old Stove Pub off the market.
“We have made improvements within the space, making the interior brighter and allowing more light,” DeCristofaro says. “The new sushi bar has been a big success allowing our guests to have more choices. Customers are always ordering from both menus.”
While much of the character was left intact, the kitchen, hardwood floors, bar, fireplace, plumbing, electric and dining areas were updated. And the menu received the biggest update of all.
“The original menu was very Greek and had excellent and very expensive steaks. I kept many of the original items but added more Mediterranean dishes,” DeCristofaro explains, adding that the restaurant — which offers scallops, filet mignon, Atlantic salmon and other delicacies — also added separate sushi and dessert menus. “The food is great, the service is excellent, and we have extensive outdoor dining areas and indoor space combined with live music.”
At this point, the name “Old Stove Pub” has become a bit of a misnomer, since the restaurant offers a far more elegant, upscale dining experience than a pub vibe, yet the name remains. “The name is iconic and a Hamptons classic,” DeCristofaro says. “The neon sign on the highway has been seen by millions, and it simply has to stay the way it is.”
The name will soon become a New York City classic, as well, when DeCristofaro opens up its second location after decades of being exclusively found in Sagaponack. “I am opening the Old Stove Pub on the east side Midtown. We have a great menu and excellent following,” he says. “I saw a space and it had ‘Old Stove Pub’ written all over it, so I made a deal. It’s also important to keep everyone employed year-round, and my crew both front and back of house is NY-based.”
While no official date has been released for the opening of the Midtown East location, fans of Old Stove Pub have something to look forward to in Sagaponack in the meantime. Seeking to bring some of that old-school pub vibe back the restaurant, DeCristofaro plans to introduce Pub Nights this fall, featuring a selection of burgers, pub fare, and karaoke may even make a return.
After a rocky few years, Old Stove Pub has once again cemented itself in the community, with celebrities like Jimmy Fallon among the restaurant’s loyal regulars, some of which return for dinner at least once a week. “Taking something that was literally falling apart and bringing it back to life AND seeing so many happy customers every week has truly been a pleasure for me and the entire team,” DeCristofaro says. “The Old Stove Pub is back, better than ever, and all of the Old Stove Pub team would like to thank everyone for their support and keeping us busy.”
Old Stove Pub is located at 3516 Montauk Highway, Sagaponack. For reservations, call 631-537-3300, and for more information, visit oldstovepub.com.