In its more than 40 years, Pattigeorge’s has become a well-known Longboat establishment and hangout for locals.
Since 1973, Pattigeorge’s has been the best restaurant in two counties.
“No other restaurant is in the two counties, so I’m allowed to say we’re the best one in both,” said owner and chef Tommy Klauber. “It’s right on the county line. We pay taxes in Sarasota and Manatee County.”
After 43 years, the popular Longboat Key restaurant closed its doors June 25.
Klauber and his father, Murf, purchased Pattigeorge’s from Patti and George Neofotis in 1997 and created the restaurant it was for nearly two decades.
“It was an Italian restaurant, and I had a much more global concept for it, so we may have kept the name, but we created a completely new restaurant,” Klauber said. Klauber decided to call his menu items “fine coastal cuisine.”
“The recipes and food were to reflect the flavors of coastlines around the world, so because we’re on a beautiful coastline ourselves, we included cuisine from our region but also ones from the Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, South America, anywhere in the world where there’s coastline,” Klauber said. “That’s been our guiding vision.”
When Klauber opened the restaurant, many ingredients were uncommon and unheard of.
“Before I opened, some other local restaurateurs told me nobody would understand the food, like miso,” Klauber said. “They told me I should do a menu that people would understand. Instead of changing the menu, I introduced people to a lot of new things.”
At the back of the menus, Klauber put “Tommy K’s Culinary Companion,” which included definitions of the ingredients his clientele might find unfamiliar.
When Klauber bought Pattigeorge’s, many staff stayed with the new owner, including General Manager Sandra Wooten.
“I told the staff they all had jobs if they wanted it when we reopened,” Klauber said. “That kind of loyalty has gone beyond a company loyalty. It becomes family.”
Pattigeorge’s also became known for its interactive dinners, which taught customers how to cook food in a certain theme, such as Taste of the World. The restaurant also hosted fundraisers for local organizations, such as the Sarasota Opera and InStride Therapy Inc.
In the 19 years Klauber has owned the restaurant, Pattigeorge’s has become a local hangout for Longboat residents.
“It’s like a little social club in there for Longboaters,” Klauber said. “I always see guests table hopping. Maybe it’s the beginning of the season and everyone is saying hi, or the end of the season and everyone is saying bye. In the summer, locals are glad to have the island back. And here, they wanted to come see their friends. It’s a sense of community.”
Local bartender and Longboat Key resident Sam Lastinger worked at Pattigeorge’s from 2002 to 2013 and enjoyed many of the restaurant’s regulars.
“It was quite the venture in the old days,” Lastinger said. “It was a great spot, to watch all the old timers who used to come in. I had a guy there who stormed the beaches in Normandy, and we used to get all the people from the Colony. It was great. It was a fantastic place to work.”
Although some menu items and customers changed over time, the atmosphere and ambiance of the restaurant did not.
“It hasn’t changed very much,” said former Mayor Jim Brown, a regular customer. “To me, it’s always been good food and good service and kind of unique to this area because it was not just your usual seafood. It had an Asian flare to it, which I liked. I always enjoyed it and always recommended it to friends who were new to town.”
When Brown moved to Longboat Key 16 years ago, Pattigeorge’s soon became one of his favorite local hangouts.
“When I walked in, the bartender put my drink in front of me,” Brown said. “I never had to ask. They know what I drink. I have a group of friends here on the Key, and we get together socially, and that’s one of the places we go to more than any other place.”
Although its closing was not officially announced until Sunday, many regular diners heard the news and visited on its last night of business.
“I was there Saturday night, drinking the last drop of liquor,” Brown said. “I was on my way out to dinner, and a friend said they were all gathering at Pattigeorge’s because it’s closing. About 40 of my closest friends showed up. We closed the place down, literally.”
For those who will miss Pattigeorge’s food, Klauber will be offering some favorites at his other restaurant, Polo Grill and Bar, in Lakewood Ranch.