Elisa DiStefano and her husband Mo Cassara wear many hats.
When they aren’t in the role of mom and dad to their two young children, DiStefano is a familiar face reporting on Long Island news and Cassara is a former college basketball coach turned analyst for CBS Sports and ESPN.
In addition to broadcasting on their resumes, they are also restauranteurs operating MO’NELISA Italian Restaurant and their revamped eatery, The Point Bar + Grill in Point Lookout, which reopened this spring after a 26-month closure.
“We made a difficult decision to close when COVID first hit, not having any idea how long it was going to be, how devastating it was going to be,” said Cassara. “We took a tremendous gamble, but I believed in what we wanted to do and what we had here.”
DiStefano — known for her award-winning entertainment news segments and bubbly TV personality — recently left News 12 Long Island after 17 years as the station’s morning show reporter.
Last month, she started her new job as a senior lifestyle host for NewsdayTV.
“The next chapter is about opportunity,” DiStefano said. “We’ve been building for so long, between the restaurant and my broadcast career, and now it’s here. It’s all about what we want to do with it, it’s almost like where do I begin.”
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Two years in the making
Formerly The Point Ale House and Grill, Cassara said the couple made the decision two years ago to buy out the partners and real estate to completely renovate what became The Point Bar + Grill.
During the rebuild period, COVID, construction delays, staffing shortages and other obstacles presented themselves, preventing The Point from opening last summer, Cassara said.
But those challenges didn’t halt the vision for the restaurant.
“Instead of going backward, we actually hurdled forwards,” Cassara said. “It just took a little longer than we wanted.”
DiStefano recalls standing with Cassara amid the sawdust, wearing a hard hat, surrounded by boxes and wires, taking in the space and imagining a vision of the final product.
“It was challenge after challenge, and I remember visualizing our friends in the bar seats, food on the table, and what it was going to be,” she said. “[Cassara] had the vision and brought it to life. It’s even greater than I could even visualize.”
The Point Bar + Grill debuted on May 23 at 70 Lido Blvd. at Point Lookout, and business has been “tremendous,” Cassara expressed.
“The first two weeks [we opened], by Sunday evening we ran out of food both weeks,” Cassara said. “The concept that we had worked. We’ve become more of a family restaurant and less of a bar.”
Why you need to ‘Get To The Point‘
Point Lookout is a quaint beach town that has become a popular summer destination.
Drivers must decrease their speed to 15 mph when going through the tiny seaside neighborhood.
And Cassara and DiStefano encourage visitors to “slow down and stop” at The Point.
The rebranded casual, family-friendly restaurant includes newly expanded outdoor spaces, indoor dining, private rooms for special gatherings, and high-quality, fresh food options.
Inside the eatery, photos of all sizes hang from the walls depicting businesses from Point Lookout’s past.
For example, Cassara said that The Point pays tribute to its predecessor, The Bay House, which operated in the same building in the 1970s.
In the back corner of the restaurant is a black and white photograph of The Patio, another former business in the same space from the 1960s. Every inch of The Point is nostalgic and honors the history of the Point Lookout community.
Cassara and DiStefano also commemorate beloved community members, such as Matt Thompson, who was a family friend and frequent customer who sadly passed away. One of the private dining spaces at The Point is deemed The Matthew J. Thompson Community Room in honor of the longtime Town of Hempstead worker.
“He used to love to sit here at the bar, and he was the guy that helped everybody in town when they needed something,” Cassara recalled.
As far as the food goes, Cassara hired a chef who recreated some crowd favorites that were on the menu at The Point Ale House.
Some of the restaurant’s signatures include the Santa Fe chicken salad, the steak tidbits, baked clams, and their wide selection of burgers. DiStefano’s personal favorite is the Ahi Tuna Salad.
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A year-round family restaurant
Cassara said he literally “goes in a circle” from MO’NELISA, to The Point, to home, and back.
Following his coaching career, he decided he wanted to slow down a bit, and working in the restaurant industry in his own town accomplishes just that.
“I really relish in the opportunity to not have to commute, walk to work and wear my flip-flops down the street,” he said. “Now we have a young family, which is even better.”
While Cassara is “on the ground” handling the business side of things, such as payroll and staffing, DiStefano helps build The Point’s overall brand.
Although she joked about not being the best cook, waitress, or hostess, her decades of journalism experience and connecting with locals definitely comes in handy, she said.
“As much as it is different from what I do, there are so many parallels,” DiStefano said. “There is nothing more exciting than having a place for people to gather and to actually meet the people I talk to. It’s just another connection to the community.”
DiStefano and Cassara have built a second family at The Point, they said, and their two children, Christian and Elle, enjoy visiting the staff regularly.
They’ve also been part of some heartwarming stories along the way.
The couple reflected on one particular dishwasher who came to the United States poor, moved up the ranks and became a trusted manager, met his wife who worked as a waitress at MO’NELISA, and now the two have a child on the way.
Amid the challenges of running a small business, these uplifting stories are make it all worthwhile, Cassara said.
“Those are the things that keep you coming back,” he said.
DiStefano said she looks forward to utilizing the private space for events and creating long-lasting memories at The Point.
“I want to have women’s empowerment dinners in there, I want to bring people together in there, I want ideas to be born there,” DiStefano said. “I want it to not only be a special place for the Point Lookout community, but for all of Long Island.”
The Point Bar and Grill is open daily from 12-8:30 p.m. and closed on Tuesdays.
Scroll down to view photos of The Point Bar and Grill Long Island, now open in Point Lookout.
Top photo: (left) Elisa DiStefano and (right) Mo Cassara. Photos by Ana Borruto.