Business Spotlights

Business Profile: The Boathouse, Ossining

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Outdoor dining on the Quarterdeck at The Boathouse restaurant.
Outdoor dining on the Quarterdeck at The Boathouse restaurant.

The Boathouse restaurant sits between Westerly Marina and Shattemuc Yacht Club on the north end of the Ossining waterfront. But drop in on its new Quarterdeck Boat Bar on any sunny weekend, and you might think you’ve found a little slice of tropical heaven, Ossining’s own Margaritaville-on-Hudson.

The Quarterdeck is a large open-air space at the far end of the restaurant’s parking lot. It has bright Corona Light umbrellas and Jimmy Buffet on the sound system. Attractive people in tank tops and shades sit at tables, soaking up rays while sipping beer and piña coladas. But what really sets this sweet spot apart from other riverside watering holes is the 22-foot Catalina sailboat at far end of the deck. You’ll never miss this boat: It’s the actual bar, and it’s become “a destination for drinks and sunsets,” says co-owner Val Polidoro.

“Sometimes you close your eyes and you feel like you’re at a seaside resort,” says his longtime business partner Scott London. They’ve owned restaurants in New Rochelle and Eastchester and catered weddings at Lyndhurst for 15 years. But Polidoro, who lives in the village, always wanted to open a place in Ossining.

Since launching in November 2008, The Boathouse has become popular for its convivial atmosphere, patio dining and tasty American bistro cuisine. It’s been reviewed in The New York Times, and recently got a mention in a Wall Street Journal article about Ossining real estate.

“I think the boat bar is the greatest thing to happen to Ossining since Stop & Shop came to town,” declares Martin Amsel. He’s sitting on a barstool at the boat, puffing a Cuban cigar and sipping a tinto de verano, a Sangria-like drink he discovered in Spain. Behind him, four Jet Skiers putter out to open water. Amsel and his wife Anita, both retired school teachers, are Boathouse regulars: “We even come here in the winter.” The Quarterdeck makes their favorite spot even better.

“It’s a lovely way to spend a summer day,” said Amsel. “But I learned fast: you gotta have sunglasses.”

Polidoro and London have wanted an outdoor bar since they opened The Boathouse. Then last year, Val and his wife Lori spotted a sailboat-cum-bar at a restaurant in Rhinebeck. “We knew the boat was the perfect solution,” he says

Shattemuc Yacht Club, The Boathouse’s landlord, cleaned up the site, poured the concrete slab and built the fence that prevents tipsy patrons from toppling into the river. Lori spotted the neglected Cat 22 at King Marine salvage in Verplanck.

“It had been sitting in a corner for years,” she recalls. “It was dirty and had vines growing all over it.” The boat was theirs for $500, including transport to the restaurant. Fortunately, they had a general contractor on staff: bartender Glenn Gioio. He gave the sailboat a good scrubbing inside and out, reconfigured the cabin to hold coolers and liquor bottles and the all-important Island Oasis frozen-drink machine, and built a nifty wooden deck around it to keep it in place.

The repurposing doesn’t stop with the boat. The tables are giant wire spools painted red and blue. Tiny white lights are twined up the Cat’s mast, and its original sail is stretched across the deck as a sunshade.

“Coming here is like taking an afternoon vacation,” says Ossining local Nancy Donohue, who fancies the melon colada. “And it’s less expensive than flying to Key West.”

The restaurant business is no picnic. The Boathouse has survived the Great Recession and last summer’s Hurricane Irene, which dumped four feet of water in the place (fortunately they had enough advance warning to empty the building beforehand, and were up and running three days later.) It’s also an act of faith on a historic waterfront that has defied repurposing.

​“I would love for more businesses to be down here,” says Polidoro. “I wouldn’t mind another restaurant; it’s good for the area, it’s good for everybody. It brings more people down to this beautiful waterfront. You’d be amazed how many people have lived in Ossining their whole lives and never been to the river.”

The Boathouse is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. The Quarterdeck Boat Bar is open weather permitting. 46 Westerly Road, Ossining; for reservations, call 914-923-6466;

By Dana White

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