The Starving Artist Café is the love-child of Jeff and Carol Ceraso of North Bellmore, and follows their first two children, Sarah, 26, who creates stencils and is a print maker, and Jake, 21, who is an artist. Both children grew up and developed their artistic sensibilities while going through Newbridge Road Elementary, Grand Avenue Junior and Mepham High Schools.
The café takes it farther, however, enveloping the artistic soul with a nutritional sustenance in the manner of fine salads, wraps, paninis, fish dishes, meat dishes and burgers, daily specials, vegetarian dishes, flatbreads, appetizers, gluten-free and diet-sensitive dishes, all capped with plentiful desserts to wind up an evening’s dining pleasure – all within a “homey” milieu of eclectic artistry.
There are even 18 selections of coffees and teas for discerning tastes.
In fact, it’s hard to get a table for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights, it is packed with art-goers and revelers who often come to get on the waiting list just to get their works displayed at the restaurant’s gallery. The wait for a spot in the gallery can take months, but to indulge in the foods and atmosphere and imbibe in the spirits takes only a moment to begin.
The restaurant is also filled on Thursday nights with a local prominent artist each month that will come and give painting lessons on techniques and provide helpful pointers.
Displaying prominently in the gallery when Your NewsMag paid a visit to the Starving Artist Café was the late North Merrick artist Irwin Berson, who, at 83, had developed a respected second career as a realist painter after a successful career in art advertising. Berson, who painted on canvas the plane that kids used to play on behind the Newbridge Road Inn back in the 50s and 60s – to much recognition – was a regular to the art classes at senior centers in the Merrick and Bellmore communities.
“We’ve had several artists from Bellmore that have hung in the gallery,” remarked Jeff Ceraso. Open for about two years now, the restaurant provides each artist with approximately two weeks of hanging time in the gallery. As noted earlier, there is a waiting list to get into the gallery.
Jeff noted after a table of five had left after lunch – and one of them nodded his approval and handed Jeff a card – that it was a family that wished to see one of its member’s work hang in the gallery. “The more any artist can come to support our gallery and environment, the more we can feel, appreciate and support their love of art as well,” he noted.
Of the development of the gallery, “We love to see other artists’ works,” and opening the restaurant gave them the time, inclination and incentive to see and surround themselves in artistic excellence.
Regarding the starving artist concept, one which, admittedly, seems as comfortable in New York’s SoHo or the Village, Carol Ceraso said that it was an idea that brewed for several weeks, if not months. “We always wanted to open something like a pizza place or some other-style eatery, but we also looked for a niche area that maybe wasn’t being tried, no more mom-and-pops,” she said.
With two family members either working in art as a teacher or studying art at university, the family together searched for a niche that could encompass both interests. “Then one day we found a ceramic plate that had the words ‘starving artist’ written on them,” said Carol. An unconventional eatery intersecting a love for the arts soon evolved into the Starving Artist Café.
The restaurant, located in an old house at 1045 Tulip Avenue in Franklin Square, has been widely accepted within the neighborhood because “It used to be a bar” that drew a different crowd from the one the restaurant draws, said Jeff. “This neighborhood accepts us.”
North Bellmore owners Carol and Jeff Ceraso with late North Merrick Irwin Gerson works in background
Diane DiNicola is the “decorator” of the restaurant, says Carol, while she attends to the “chief cook” duties in the kitchen and greeting patrons and visiting tables during meals. The restaurant is decorated with all manner of colorful artifacts, such as ceramics, photos and decorative art, beads and lace, books, lighting fixtures, all descriptive of classic Americana. Colorful tables and chairs seat two or more, and artisans and patrons can sit in old-style couches for a drink while they wait for a table to open.
During lunch, patrons can use their laptops for business communications through the restaurant’s wifi service.
Friday night entertainment features guests on a rotating schedule.
Starving Artist Café is open Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday, 12 noon to 9 p.m. For reservations or to discuss hanging your work in their gallery, visit www.starvingartistcafe.org, or call 358-2233.