After being closed three months for extensive renovations, the Reservoir Inn on Basin Road in West Hurley is reopening under old management on Wednesday, April 24.
“Old management” is Tony Russo, a self-described old hippie who bought the place in March 1979, when it was a bar and pizza palace. He added his own culinary creations to a menu featuring Italian, seafood and American dishes common to the restaurants in Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay where he grew up. After 28 years, Russo sold the Reservoir Inn to Sean Kaiser, who had worked for him as a waiter.
Recession and other factors jeopardized the business. Business hours became erratic. By late 2012, Kaiser was about to go belly up. There wasn’t even enough money in the cash register to make change for the regulars at the bar, Russo said.
After five years in retirement, Russo, who still held the note on the restaurant, came back this January. He and his wife Monique started restoring the place. He and his assistant Matt Blauber tore down and cleaned the interior. New carpeting and a new bar-top were installed.
Now that Russo is back, what will be the same and what different at the Reservoir Inn under the new old management? “We were busy before and we want to get a lot of our old customers back,” he said. “So we’re keeping much of our old menu and adding farm-to-table items like vegetables and poultry, and North American fish rather than imported. We’ll have fresher ingredients, including those used for personal pizzas.”
On a recent day Russo sat in the deserted dining room with a food salesman who was taking a food order on a laptop. Russo ordered whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella and jumbo party wings. Despite competition from chain restaurants, Russo was optimistic that the Reservoir Inn could once more be a success.
“I like people. I missed the gossip of Hurley and Woodstock,” he said. “The community is going to be real happy we’re open. Great food at a fair price. And most of our staff, waitresses and bartenders, are coming back. I guess ‘Russolini’ wasn’t such a bad boss after all.” Russo laughed.
Russo always gave children coming in with their parents a quarter to play the video games. “The joke was they were to give me a quarter when they got older,” he said. “And you know, I ran into a kid recently who was an adult and used to come in as a child. He recognized me and came over with a quarter. I thought, I knew this day would come,” said Russo.
He laughed again.