It’s an end of an era.
Known for its spectacular views of the Great South Bay, rooftop dining, and an array of seafood, Nicky’s on the Bay is shutting its doors to make way for a new owner after almost two decades in business.
Its last day of business is Oct. 10.
Current owners Nick and Rachel Parini described the closing as “bittersweet,” and noted that the decision hasn’t really hit them just yet.
“I would hope people remember [Nicky’s on the Bay] as that fun place in the summertime on the Great South Bay,” Rachel Parini said. “It was a giant party upstairs on the weekends … and it really was a family place.”
After over 25 years in the restaurant industry and putting 130-something hours a week every season at Nicky’s on the Bay, Nick Parini is ready for a little break.
However, he said he is immensely grateful for the opportunity to operate the waterfront restaurant and build the life he always dreamed of.
“This restaurant has given our family a great life,” he said, in the final month of the restaurant’s 18th season at the Bay Shore Marina. “We work hard in the summer, and if we want to go away somewhere in the winter, we have the luxury of doing that … and that’s unheard of in this business.”
A ‘little clam shack’
The couple recalls passing the bayfront location at 50 S. Clinton Ave. by boat nearly two decades ago and imagining the space one day being their own.
“I always said this is a great location for a restaurant. To me, it’s probably the greatest location in Suffolk County,” Nick Parini said.
Nick Parini said he never went to culinary school, but instead enlisted in the U.S. Navy when he was young.
However, he worked in bakeries most of his life and “accidentally” stumbled into the restaurant business.
“My father owned a pizza place in Bethpage, and I used to stop in after work to help him roll dough,” Nick said.
Nick Parini owned Villa Roma for 15 years in Commack, where the new Chick-fil-A now resides at 656 Commack Road. In 1990, he launched Nicky’s Clam Bar in the old Porky’s located at the Maple Avenue Fire Island Terminal.
The clam bar is now run by their children, Joey and Christine, who continue to uphold the establishment’s long-standing tradition of fine food and drink for Fire Islanders and visitors.
In 2004, Nick and Rachel achieved their dream of owning the Bay Shore Marina spot and opened Nicky’s on the Bay — the couple described it as “fate.”
“It was really nothing, just some tables on a deck outside and there was an inside kind of bar — but all Pepsi cases that you’d grab a soda out of,” Rachel said of Nicky’s humble beginnings. “We literally gutted it, probably three times.”
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They negotiated a rebuild in 2015 and the establishment grew from “16 seats to 600,” they said. Their grand reopening day was July 24, almost losing the whole summer season.
When they had their doubts about a successful summer, the community proved them wrong.
“The line of cars coming down … past Montauk Highway,” Nick Parini recalled. “We had over a thousand people that night.”
After that, the couple never looked back.
They participated in community events down at the Bay Shore Marina, such as the shark tournament, and clam shucking contests.
Nicky’s on the Bay became a go-to spot for families looking for a day or night out on the water.
Nick Parini said the restaurant bought very few fish products from the fish markets, and instead turned to local fishermen and clammers.
“They would come directly to us. So we knew everything was from the Long Island Sound, right through our back door. You can’t get it fresher than that,” he said. “People would pull up with a 200-pound tuna, and we’d take it.”
He said a great asset to their success over the years was Nicky’s Clam Bar, which provided support whenever the restaurant needed it.
“If we were running low on food, and it was late at night, I’d just call the clam bar,” Nick Parini said. “Flounder, shrimp, staffing … I’d call my son and he’d send me a cook if I needed it.”
Thanking the community
For many, Nicky’s on the Bay was the chosen venue for special moments.
Whether it be a wedding, community event, or meeting place for town officials, the restaurant had a way of making patrons feel like family.
“You have your regulars that come in (who) we’ve known them so long,” Rachel Parini said. “It’s like ‘Cheers.’ Everybody knows everyone’s name.”
Rachel continued to say her husband was one of the most “accommodating and hands-on owners” in the industry.
Although this is semi-retirement for Nick Parini, he said he is not the type of guy to sit around and throw in the towel.
Customers can still find him helping out occasionally at Nicky’s Clam Bar, and right now he is just looking for something more simple.
“Everybody who found out I’m selling said ‘Oh now you can enjoy your life,’ and I said I’ve been enjoying my life for 18 years,” Nick said. “I have a really good life.”
The restaurant remains closed on Tuesdays for the rest of the season and its last day on Oct. 10 is going to be “Customer Appreciation Day.”
From noon-8 p.m., all food and drinks will be 50 percent off, while supplies last.
The band Tradewinds will join Nicky’s on the Bay one last time for a performance from 4-7 p.m.
All proceeds from the last day will go to the kitchen staff as a thank you for all their hard work and dedication to Nicky’s all these years.
“It would be really hard for me to go up to everyone who has supported us these last years and say ‘Thank you,’ we wouldn’t be here without them,” Nick said. “It’ll be a nice way to go out…I’m a humble guy, I appreciate my customers and employees, and everything that has happened to me has been awesome.”
Keep an eye on greaterlongisland.com for updates on the new ownership team.
Top: Rachel and Nick Pirani standing outside of Nicky’s on the Bay.