It was father versus son at Michael’s Porthole in Oceanside, N.Y., when Rocco DiSpirito entered the restaurant for the first time. Specializing in seafood, this waterfront eatery was on the brink of closure after a series of devastating accidents and natural tragedies, and while owner Mike Rodonis Sr. was committed to making its fish-focused menu work long-term, his son, Mike Rodonis Jr., who is also the chef at the restaurant, believed that a brand-new Italian concept was needed to jump-start the restaurant’s profitability. Rocco had no choice but to divided the space and pursue both ideas before ultimately determining which offered the greatest opportunity for lasting success.
Working with his Restaurant Divided team, Rocco transformed one half of the interior of Michael’s Porthole into Mike Jr.’s Il Portello, serving Italian-inspired appetizers, and converted the other half into Mike Sr.’s Canal House Grill, a made-over version of the existing restaurant. Rocco helped both guys tweak their menus to be both business-smart and appealing to customers, then the father and son served separate meals to customers and critics alike. After considering both business’ viability and hearing from diners, Rocco announced that the concept of Il Portello is stronger.