Juniper at The Vanderbilt opens in Westbury

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Everyone obsesses over the cooking and the vibe and the décor and the service, but restaurant names make and break establishments more often than you might think, and selecting one often involves nervous meetings between restaurateurs and their backers. As managing partner of Civetta Hospitality, James Mallios has participated in his share of these tedious confabs, or “bad meetings,” as he calls them, admitting that some are less painful than others.

“Juniper actually grows on the property,” he said, referring to The Vanderbilt, a high-end Westbury apartment complex that until last March played host to Tom Schaudel’s Kingfish, one of the pandemic’s early restaurant casualties. Mallios and his team eventually took over the space, and their New American eatery, Juniper, opened May 20.

“It’s also native Long Island flora,” he continued, perfect for a restaurant whose menu draws inspiration, along with much of its produce and meats, from local purveyors. And juniper berries are, of course, a key ingredient in gin, on which Juniper’s cocktail program is based. Building a bar around the spirit can be a challenge on an island where vodka and tequila are king, but general manager John Nicoletti likes his chances.

“I always tell people, if you like whiskey, you like gin. You just don’t know it yet,” he said. Accordingly, Juniper plans to feature up to 8 gin cocktails at a time — a house barrel-aged negroni among them — using gins from Long Island Spirits (Deepwells) and Montauk Distilling (71st Regiment).

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