Great food and great wine are just two things that James and Meghan LaCourte are bringing to Huntington this month with the soft opening of their restaurant, Leilu – an American-style, family-friendly restaurant and wine bar.
But it’s been a long journey to get to where they are today. “Probably for the last 20 years I’ve been wanting to open a restaurant,” James said, “And I think we started to share the dream about 10 years ago.”
The two Huntington High School graduates had been working in the food industry for years and, after extensive and broad careers in all aspects of hospitality and cuisine, the duo decided it was time to pursue and open their own place.
“We were both born and raised here… elementary school, Finley Middle School, Huntington High School, and now we’re back living here so, during those 30-something years, we’ve really learned the clientele,” Meghan said. “We were looking in other towns, but people were asking us to stay in Huntington.”
They got the news on Christmas Eve after a yearlong process of looking for a space that would be their new home away from home. “A year ago we were at the point where we just said, ‘It’s time now… if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it,’” James added.
Located at 10 New Street, it sits near dozens of other well-known restaurants in the village, but the LaCourtes aren’t worried about any competition. “We’re not corporate owned,” Meghan said, “We’re local and family-owned, and we want that to resonate with the place.”
And family is a huge theme for Leilu – since the name comes as a blend of their two young daughters, Leila and Lucie. “When we started this journey, we only had Leila and we were going to call it Leila’s,” Meghan said. The soon-to-be-new parents didn’t know if they were having a boy or a girl and were preparing a boy’s name as a future concept down the line.
Instead Lucie was born and they decided to combine both names so Lucie wouldn’t be left out. “We already had our domain name and everything,” Meghan laughed, “But Lucie’s personality is so strong… she had to be included because this is our family – it’s everything we’ve ever dreamed of… it’s our third child.”
The menu will feature appetizers, small plates and different types of entrees so that all taste palates are accounted for. “The best thing about American is you can do whatever you want,” James said. They plan on offering vegetarian and vegan options, as well.
The two plan to use locally sourced food and ingredients. “There’s so much that Long Island has to offer from great farms to great seafood,” James said. “We have so much here that we feel we can use that at the restaurant to shine through.”
Since signing their lease in February, the family has spent endless hours constructing the space, tasting wines and beers, creating a menu, and purchasing ornately decorated mirrors to fill the walls. The two-story restaurant has a cozy sitting area and bar downstairs, with a space upstairs that will be available for parties and catering down the line.
Excited to finally be open, Leilu is offering a limited menu created by the owners and their executive chef, Brian Hartman, for its soft opening. Closed on Mondays, they are open at 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Sunday.
“We’re so thankful for all the support we’ve gotten from our friends, family and the community,” Meghan said. Leilu will be expanding their menu to celebrate their grand opening in August.