There’s a fresh (yet familiar) new face behind The Cull House in Sayville


Things have come full circle on the water for this Sayville native.

John Tomasetti began working at The Cull House as a young teen, along with his siblings. He starting as a bus boy, eventually trying out every other role in the restaurant before moving on.

Now, all these years later, he’s back at The Cull House. This time as owner.

He’s given the landmark restaurant a bit of a facelift but not much else will change. After all, no one would want to upset the loyal clientele that beloved former owner John Casey built up over decades.

Casey “owned [The Cull House] for 47 years,” Tomasetti said. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

The background

In his adult career, Tomasetti worked with Anheuser Busch, traveling and living in several different cities, states and countries over several years. He was offered a position to come back to New York in 2014. Then, more recently, A-B told him he’d need to relocate his job off the island.

But he wanted to remain in Sayville.

Spoiler alert: he said no.

While he figured out his next move, he decided he needed to make some extra cash. So, he headed back to his roots, which just so happened to be down the road from his home.

“I went back to The Cull House to wait tables before I started figuring out my next chapter,” he said. “I can skateboard there, that’s how close I am.”

How it happened

While working with his old boss (again), the two started talking and Casey mentioned he was ready for retirement. Tomasetti jumped on what sounded like an opportunity to buy the place. That was in the fall.

Then Mother Nature threw both men for a loop. On Dec. 18, right before the expected holiday rush, a storm flooded the entire sunroom, leaving it as a complete loss.

But they jumped into action to clean it up and facilitate all the necessary repairs.

Then another storm hit on Jan. 10, flooding the entire restaurant.

But the storms and flooding did leave a silver lining, Tomasetti said, noting that he and his team were able to fashion The Cull House with a brighter new floor and other aesthetic upgrades.

“The flooding caused the floor to come up, so we redid them,” he said. “We redid the painting and fixed the wainscoting. But, we lost a lot of inventory.”

It all worked out, though.

The “new” Cull House officially opened to patrons last month.

“The recipes are changing just a little bit,” he said, “but all the customers seem to love it.”

What’s next?

Along with some minor updates to the menu, Tomasetti has lined up live music acts for the rest of winter and into spring. Thursday nights will feature local musicians and the sunroom is set to be fully cleaned up and finished by summer.

The new owner also wants to give the restaurant’s chef more freedom, introducing weekly specials, $5 Taco Tuesdays, and half-off oysters on Thursdays, with deals on lobster rolls from noon to 4 p.m.

Tomasetti is also looking forward to two new concepts for The Cull House — “Trust Us Dinners” on Wednesdays and Sundays, which offer either three of four course meals to groups of four or more, specially curated with items not typically on the menu.

Couples can also head to The Cull House on Saturdays for the special date night lobster clam bake for $100.

Even with the new promotions, Tomasetti said the original mantra of sustainable seafood is still enforced. “We serve only fresh, local seafood that’s delivered daily,” he said.

Top: John Tomasetti outside The Cull House at 75 Terry St. in Sayville, near the ferry terminal, on Friday. (GLI Photo/Michael White)

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