Commissioner Lance Landgraf enjoys the very first beer poured from a tap at Santucci’s, which opened its outdoor deck Monday, June 15. He is with owner Blake Barabuscio and manager Gabe behind the bar.


Restaurateurs and their patrons were happy to regain some sense of normalcy Monday, June 15 after Gov. Phil Murphy allowed restaurants to open with outdoor dining starting 6 a.m.

Ventnor Commissioner Lance Landgraf got an extra special treat. He sipped the first pour from the brand new taps at Santucci’s Original Square Pizza, which opened its upstairs deck to dining at 11 a.m.

“I was thrilled to see Santucci’s, Blake (Barabuscio) and Alicia (Santucci) take another step in opening their business in our city,” he said. “I’m even happier to be the first customer to purchase a beer in Ventnor.”

Santucci’s was awarded the first of Ventnor’s three available liquor consumption licenses and is the first to serve liquor by the glass. The Ventnor Square Theater won the second license and plans to open later this summer. The third available license has yet to be offered.

A group of friends, all from the Downbeach area, congregated at one end of the outdoor bar, enjoying some pizza and beer.

“We’re doing a bar crawl and will be stopping at every open bar from here to the Atlantic City Boardwalk,” one of the members of the “Crumb Crew” said.

Lily and Erica Brownstein of Ventnor were ecstatic to be eating out following nearly three months of take out.

“We are very happy to finally be eating out. Hannah G’s was always our favorite breakfast place,” Lily said.

Server Victoria Robertson of Margate said it was “a little bit weird” to be serving again.

“People are a little apprehensive because things are different with social distancing and wearing masks,” she said.

Owner Donna McCarthy said she was glad the weather was not perfect – cool and a little breezy – “so we have time to reacclimate,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Margate, Lou Freedman of Bocca Coal Fired Bistro was putting the final touches on his outdoor café, which is located in a section of N. Essex Avenue.

“We wanted to open in a lot across the street,” Freedman said. “But some of the neighbors complained so the city allowed us to close a portion of the street.”

Four friends, two of them veterans, enjoyed their first day dining out on the sidewalk in front of Bocca.

“We’re here for Margarita Mondays,” Laraine Cheafskey said. “This is the nicest thing to happen since March 16 when the shutdown started.”

Friend John “Buzz” Laxton said, “Things are gradually starting to get back to normal.”

Down at Johnny’s Café and Shuckers, owner Giovanna Liccio was taking reservations for later in the day, and Jerry and Marlene Lerner of Margate and Philadelphia were finishing up their lunch.

“The food here is excellent and the weather’s good,” Jerry said. “It’s great to just sit and have lunch outdoors.”

Ozzie’s Luncheonette, one of just three commercial businesses in all of Longport, always serves al fresco from its breakfast and lunch menu.

Owner Likie Nika is grateful things are starting to return to normal, she said.

“As long as people stay healthy, all is good,” she said.

Allie Fishman of Philadelphia said she has visited Longport before but it was her first time at Ozzie’s.

“I’m just glad I didn’t have to cook,” she said. “We’re still trying to be cautious though.”

Her mother Rochelle Longwill of Delaware said she took a photo of the food to share with friends.

“When they put the plate down, I just let out a sigh,” she said.


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Categories: Downbeach

Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.