The renovated Swept Away, now LaLa’s Lounge, is just off the beaten path in downtown Bay Shore.
Once found, the Bayview Avenue restaurant is a taste of heaven for those who wisely choose to stick around.
LaLa’s Lounge is the latest catering venture from Verde, Coastal and Brightwaters Inn partner Andrew Tartaglia. For him and his girlfriend Leah Fernandes, creating LaLa’s Lounge has become a true labor of love.
“I love that aspect of all of our restaurants, we do a lot of it ourselves,” Tartaglia said. “We really feel like we’re part of the building and the space, because Leah is my partner. This is our passion project here.
Fernandes added that the atmosphere is “super cool, come as you are.”
“I feel really lucky to have this space of our own,” she said.
A “spring break” project
In April 2021, Tartaglia announced to GreaterBayShore that he, Fernandes, Stephen Kalantgopoulos and Amanda Whittaker were taking over the former Swept Away.
They wanted to get into the business immediately and continued to operate as Swept Away for the rest of the year, but they stuck to a plan to make the space their own.
As the restaurant closed last winter, the owners revamped the kitchen layout, built new tables and redecorated the restaurant’s front.
“This year we really put in the time and we did it our way,” said Tartaglia. “It was fun, it was the two of us, my dad helping out and we bonded as a family – at the end of the day we had a few drinks at the bar… it was kind of like our little winter club.
Fernandes, who is a schoolteacher, joked with Tartagalia that the restaurant makeover was her “spring break.”
The restaurant was originally intended to be called “The Mainland,” but a combination of music, chef Kevin Breeden’s hometown of Los Angeles, and the couple’s initials became the catalyst for “LaLa’s Lounge.”
“I was listening to my music, and every time a ‘Lala’ chorus came up, I was texting Leah,” he said. “It was so on my mind that I really wanted to name the restaurant that…to encapsulate that musical vibe, our chef Kevin is from LA, and we have an L and an A.”
The “country of yes”
Tartaglia said LaLa’s Lounge captures the tranquility and seaside vibe of the Bay Shore Marina.
Inspired by their Fire Island roots, Fernandes and Tartaglia have fashioned a “laid-back beach experience on the mainland.”
Many of LaLa’s staff are old friends who worked together at The Island Mermaid Restaurant and Maguire’s Bayfront in their youth.
The menu features specialties from both coasts, particularly California and Fire Island.
Chef Breeden has created snacks and sharing plates that mimic the Los Angeles street food scene, such as So-Cal guacamole, taquitos de elote and nachos, which are a crowd favorite, said Fernandes.
Customers can also choose from a variety of tacos, sammies, quesadillas and bowls.
As for cocktails, Ocean Beach staples like Zippy’s and Rocket Fuels are available, along with a selection of frozen drinks, margaritas, and mojitos.
Tartaglia said the hope is to attract a younger crowd with not just their food and drink, but the overall atmosphere.
Those who come to have a bite to eat or hang out with friends can have fun with a game of pool in the back terrace or darts in the main dining room.
Fernandes said she added hula hoops that her mother had made outside for the children to use.
“We want it to get a little younger, a little more fun, and more appealing to our friends in our age group,” he said. “We tried to create light snacks – save room for drinking and dancing.”
A living room on its own
In the 10 years he’s lived in Bay Shore and across the bay, Tartaglia said he’s come to love the restaurants of downtown Bay Shore.
His hope for LaLa’s Lounge is that it becomes an alternative spot for those looking to get away from Main Street.
And while there are elements of Tartaglia’s other Bay Shore properties infused into LaLa’s Lounge, he said the restaurants and their corresponding partners try to distinguish themselves from one another.
“We like that people recognize the brand and that they can trust that. It is very important,” said Tartaglia. “But at the same time, we try to do things our way. Among restaurant groups, it becomes somewhat of a friendly competition.
Fernandes and Tartaglia plan to hold various events at LaLa’s Lounge, such as their second annual Art Bayview festival this fall. Live music performances and burlesque shows are also in the restaurant’s future, Tartaglia said.
The partners hope to become a “solid anchor” in the Bay Shore community and continue to be a seasonal go-to spot.
“We have great people, young and old, here every day,” Tartaglia said. “We see them more than we see our own families, it’s our little restaurant family.”
You can check out LaLa’s Lounge’s menu and event schedule on their website here. Follow them on Instagram for updates.
Scroll down to see more photos of LaLa’s Lounge, now open from noon to 10 p.m., seven days a week.