When La Superica closed in 2018, locals and longtime visitors alike lamented the loss of a favorite spot for burritos, margaritas and good times, and worried it was another harbinger of change in Sag Harbor.
When Superica, as it was known to locals, closed, the local pizza place, Conca D’oro, had recently shut its doors, and later, a favorite burger joint, Bay Burger, followed suit. A number of Main Street retail outlets also closed in 2018 as the business landscape in Sag Harbor appeared to be changing in rapid succession.
But Jesse Matsuoka is an optimist, and he’s focusing on a larger vision.
Mr. Matsuoka, a co-owner of Sen Restaurant and a board member of the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, is a part of a group of entrepreneurs who are taking over the former La Superica space and reopening it as a Latin fusion eatery. The group plans to ask to use the same name, but is considering other options as well, and hopes to open its doors in May.
“We really want to be able to provide a delicious product at affordable pricing with fun ambiance and year-round clientele,” Mr. Matsuoka said in an interview Monday. “It’s as local as you can get.”
He said the group of self-described “foodies” is attracted to the idea of experimenting with new fare. He described the concept as “beach street food with Latin influences.”
“With cuisine these days, there’s such opportunity within so many different cultures and countries. We don’t want to be just Mexican,” Mr. Matsuoka said. “As culinary experts, we want to be able to represent multiple taste profiles in the form of a taco or empanada or salad. Who says that we can’t do a duck confit taco? Who says we can’t do an Indian lamb taco?”
The sunsets over the harbor were attractive to the restaurateurs, too — not to mention the prospect of the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park immediately in the vicinity of the restaurant. Developer Jay Bialsky is in the process of selling land to Southampton Town through its Community Preservation Fund for the creation of the park, which would be managed by the village, although the sale has not closed yet.
“I’m just really happy that Sag Harbor is moving in such a positive direction,” Mr. Matsuoka said. “This park that’s getting redone across the street has been such an eyesore for Sag Harbor for so long. … I already see this vision of families, couples, dog-walkers, whoever, just enjoying that park with our products. It’s a really nice feeling.”
Jeff Resnick, another partner in Sen, has been involved in several restaurants. He was the original owner of La Superica when it opened in 1991 and sold the business to Ken O’Donnell in 1997. On Monday night, Mr. Resnick said “a lot has changed” in the village since he first opened the doors to La Superica, but that the group of partners would like to keep some continuity in the restaurant that people came to know and love.
“Part of what makes Sag Harbor so great is all the different restaurants and the shops that are so accessible. The restaurants are a real draw for everybody,” Mr. Resnick said. “The more exciting different things that there are, the more exciting it is for everybody.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Mr. O’Donnell said he will be meeting with Mr. Matsuoka in the coming week “to discuss the La Superica brand and the space.”
“Life changes, things move on,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “I hope they have as many sunsets and great memories in the place. I’m definitely very grateful to Sag Harbor and to Jeff for giving me that opportunity back in 1997. I wish them nothing but the best of luck and I hope it treats them well.”
Along with Mr. Matsuoka and Mr. Resnick, the partners in the new iteration of La Superica are Tora Matsuoka, Jesse’s brother, who is currently managing Claudio’s in Greenport; Stephen Lofredo, a hospitality expert who is Tora Matsuoka’s business partner; David Hart, a restaurant consultant and East Hampton entrepreneur; and Nick Zappola and Nunzio Zappola, two well-known contractors, who were responsible for the recent renovation of Sen.
“We’re a big, old family — a great group of operators that wants to be able to put something together for this town,” Jesse Matsuoka said.
Last week, Mr. Resnick even reached out to one of his former employees to gauge his interest in having his old job back.
“I’m still on the fence,” joked Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire, who worked at La Superica from 1994 to 1997 and left only when he got his first police post. “I wish them well. I think it’s great for the community. I hate to see places closed and they do a good job.”
The group of partners first took a walk-through of the vacant restaurant space about three weeks ago. Then, Mr. Matsuoka said, the secret was out.
“It was us walking through the space that gave it away. We got call after call after call,” he said. “It was actually a food rep who was the first person who reached out to my chef. My chef didn’t even know what was going on. He said so-and-so wants the account. It’s so funny how this little town thrives on chatter.”
The new restaurant will need approvals from the Sag Harbor Planning Board and possibly other village regulatory boards for an outdoor walk-in refrigerator to bring the building up to current building codes.
Mr. Resnick said the hospitality business “is hard, but it’s rewarding,” and Mr. Matsuoka acknowledged they are “all a little nuts” for wanting to jump into yet another restaurant venture.
“You have to be a little cuckoo to love this industry so much,” he said. “It is extremely stressful on every level, physically, mentally, on relationships, on your wallet. … We not only feel confident, but we feel proud to put out a fantastic product that everyone will love.”