Anthony Martello, the new owner of the Surf Club on the Sound, passes by a shrub at the back of the club and notices a few dead, yellow leaves. He plucks them, flicks them away and then prunes the plant a bit, like a barber giving it a fresh cut.
It’s one of the first T-shirt days of spring on Davenport Avenue in New Rochelle, where all of the city’s famous coastal clubs are located. Martello walks the grounds of the club, which is not only preparing for warmer weather but is being revamped under his watchful eye. Flowers have already been planted near the gated entrance and dozens of landscapers are redoing the back lawn.
“Our goal is to be the best,” he says. “I always felt the place had the potential to be the best due to its location.”
Martello helped build the Surf Club in the early 1990s as a contractor. His Matell Contracting Company Inc. also built a second reception hall on the second floor several years ago under the former owners.
While Martello is new to the catering business, he knew the place well and attended many events there. “I always felt very comfortable. It felt like home,” he says. Last year, he bought the property and hosted his first event New Year’s Eve. The party was a success, he says, but he immediately considered ways to improve. After the party, he bought all new coffee machines.
As the club’s new owner, he is looking to reconstruct the club from the ground up. He’s bought new china, silverware and tablecloths since taking over. He also replaced virtually every member of the service staff. Each member of the new staff, he says, has at least 20 years of experience in catering or service. Chef Teodor “Ted” Profita remains from the old management, but the club is revamping its menu. The prime rib option has been replaced by filet mignon.
Many people who live in the area have fond memories of Sweet 16 parties and weddings at the Surf Club. (Two of my three siblings were married there). Martello knows people have their own impressions of what the club is.
“They’re going to have a new look at the old place,” Martello says. “If they thought the old service was good, we are going to take the catering to a whole new level.”
While Martello walks the property, construction crews are repaving the parking lot. A few workers clean up the statue near the front entrance. The statue, which depicts Poseidon on horseback, is so large that it had to be shipped from Europe in pieces and a large foundation was put in place to support its weight.
In the back, workers are painting the club’s name, along with palm trees, on the bottom of the pool, still empty from winter.
“Looks good,” he shouts down to the crew.
The club sits on a storied slice of the Long Island Sound with a 180-degree view that includes Davids Island. For years, the property was home to a mansion built by Col. Delancey Astor Kane and his wife, the former Eleanora F. Iselin. Kane, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, had a horse stable on the property. The Colony Club opened on the grounds but was razed and replaced along with the stable in the 1990s.
Martello says he hopes to create a new pool with a snack bar for next season, pending permits from the city. The cabanas have already been redone and new sand will be shipped in to revitalize the beach area.
Inside, the club has installed kinetic lighting and LED lights throughout. The two reception areas – each with its own hors d’oeuvres rooms, bridal suites and bathrooms – have gold-leaf additions. The club works with Westchester Floral Decorators and florist Diana Gould for its memorable centerpieces and other arrangements. The downstairs reception area can accommodate 500 people, while the upstairs can handle up to 250.
The club’s new general manager, Sandro Carlacci, has worked at some of the premier catering establishments in the area over the last 30 years, including the late Alex & Henry’s and the neighboring Glen Island Harbour Club. Carlacci says the Surf Club’s goal is to bring the Manhattan-style club experience to Westchester. Customer service is the focus, he says, but more aesthetic improvements may be on the way.
Like the statement the club is making at the commanding entrance: There’s now a piano to complement the winding staircase and imposing chandelier. It’s a favorite spot for wedding photos and the piano adds another dimension.
“It plays itself, so you can pretend to know how to play,” Martello jokes.
For more information, visit thesurfclubonthesound.com or call 914-633-8221.