Things have come full circle for chef Nicholas Trovato.
If you asked him 18 months ago where the culinary professional with 38 years under his belt would be working, he would never have guessed the location where his career began as a dishwasher.
But when the opportunity arose, Trovato jumped.
This is the story of Brightwaters’ new restaurant JTI’s American Kitchen and Bar.
“I wouldn’t believe you if you told me,” he said.
How it started
In 1985, a teenaged Trovato began his career at the historic Jon Thomas Inne at 91 Howells Road in Brightwaters. He climbed the ranks at the landmark restaurant, eventually graduating from The French Culinary Institute and moving on to work in Manhattan.
He always had an affinity for The John Thomas Inne for giving him his start. The owners were also his neighbors growing up in Islip. “They knew how to treat their customers,” Trovato said.
And they did so for a long time.
Then, earlier this year, he learned of an opportunity to take over the location where it all began for him in the kitchen.
In 1977, Thomas Lally and John Hickey took over a lodge called the “Old Heidelberg” and rebranded it as The Jon Thomas Inne. After running it for nearly 40 years, the restaurant changed hands in 2020, becoming a seafood restaurant called LuLu’s Lobster Inne. At that time, Trovato was finishing up his contract at Husk and Vine, a shareable plates restaurant he helped launch in St. James. He later went to be an executive chef for Arcis Golf, a nationwide golf and country club company.
He got the keys in June and JTI’s American Kitchen and Bar was born. While the name pays homage to the iconic John Thomas Inne, it is very much a refreshed concept with a more elevated dining experience.
We’re talking about a place where phones eat first, craft cocktails, and tablecloth service.
“Before someone is going for their fork, I bet they are grabbing their camera first,” Trovato said.
Trovato co-owns the restaurant with his brother Rob and longtime friend Jason Vilardi.
“We’re South Shore, Islip guys,” he said. “This is a story of hometown kids doing good.”
If you go
The dining menu is “all the things that are trending and exciting,” Trovato told Greater Long Island. While the staples remain, he says most of his menu changes seasonally.
But, not the four seasons, more in the terms of what’s freshest on any particular month, or week.
“Things come in and out of play 10 days at a clip,” he said.
JTI’s celebrated its grand opening in July. Trovato is still pinching himself: “This is like a dream come true,” he said.
Located at 91 Howells Road, Brightwaters