One of my favorite places to visit on Long Island is the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center in Riverhead. I’ve been taking my boys there for years, almost monthly, or whenever they have a half-day or a day off from school. We begin our excursion with lunch at the three generation, family-run Star Confectionery on the corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street in downtown Riverhead.
Just a few blocks away from the aquarium, Star Confectionery is like stepping back in time. This gem of an old-fashioned ice cream parlor and luncheonette, has been owned and operated by the Meras family since 1920.
“The building was built as a candy and ice cream shop in 1911,” says Anthony Meras, Jr., whose grandfather Nicholas bought the business in 1920. “When my grandfather bought it, it became known as Papa Nick’s. He kept it as a candy and ice cream store, but eventually started serving hot breakfast and lunch.”
During the 1940s and 1950s Papa Nick’s was a happening place. The real name was Star Confectionery, after the star-shaped girders on the side of the building. Not much has changed since then. The luncheonette still has the original tin ceiling and marble floor, as well as the original wood and glass doors and front windows.
When Nicholas Mera died, his son Anthony Mera Sr. inherited the shop.
“We basically have kept things the same,” says Mera. “The booths and stools were redone, but so much of what’s in here is original. I still continue to make chocolate for all the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, using some of the same antique chocolate molds my father bought and used from Germany.”
The front glass counter currently has an array of milk chocolate turkeys on display. At Easter, an assortment of both milk and dark chocolate bunnies line the wall alongside the booths. “People come in just to buy the homemade chocolate,” says Mera.
For lunch, you can’t go wrong with a cheeseburger deluxe with fries, a side of onion rings and a chocolate malted served in an old fashioned glass. Even the side of coleslaw is delicious. Other menu items include grilled cheese, a delightful chopped chef salad, fried fish sandwich and clam strip platter. All the ice cream is homemade, and they offer seasonal specials, like pumpkin ice cream in the fall and fresh strawberry ice cream in the spring.
Star Confectionery has a loyal following of customers and a friendly staff. Be sure to support this and other small businesses.