MARCH 2021 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 53
HOOKS & CHOPS CHEF STEVEN DEL LIMA
ONWARD DESPITE CHALLENGES
BY ALAN KRAWITZ
Opening a new restaurant can be challenging
even in the best of times, but
opening up in the midst of the worst
pandemic in a century is definitely not
for the faint of heart.
Steven Del Lima, executive chef and
owner of Hooks & Chops, a seafood and
steak house in Commack, admits he was
definitely "thrown a curveball" and has
had to "adjust on the fly" since opening
his doors in October.
"I'm a very positive thinker and I believe
that all things happen for a reason," he
Those adjustments include making sure
his restaurant, formerly a 5,000-squarefoot
Ruby Tuesday's, is replete with
the latest in safety protocols including
using enhanced filtration HEPA filters,
numerous sanitizing stations, widely
spaced tables, and dividers.
"By far, from a financial stance and also
just keeping up with all the latest Covid
safety guidelines to make sure people
feel safe, this venture has been the most
challenging restaurant ever," says Del
Lima, who has worked at various venues
and helped open several spots for
But Del Lima, 48, remains positive and
says he has wanted to open the Hooks &
Chops version of a seafood chophouse
for quite a while and is pressing forward
regardless of obstacles.
A graduate of the Culinary Institute
of America in 1993, Del Lima says his
interest in cooking goes back to his
childhood at home in Massachusetts,
when he could often be found in the
kitchen helping with cooking, baking,
"I was always the one flipping the burgers
on the grill," he recalls.
Del Lima's start in the restaurant business
began with a job as a dishwasher,
then at age 16 he got his first line cook
After graduating from culinary school,
Del Lima was offered a job by one of his
CIA instructors at a restaurant in Hackensack,
N.J., called the Stony Hill Inn.
He quickly became a saucier chef at the
Stony Hill Inn and would eventually
move to New York City, where he made
Steven Del Lima opened Hooks & Chops in Commack despite the pandemic.
the rounds at elite venues including
Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, and
Daniel. He also was a managing partner
and executive chef at White Oak Oyster
Bar & Lounge in Manhattan.
"I learned as much as I could from some
of the best chefs in the world," Del Lima
As a resident of Long Island since about
2000, Del Lima has also made his mark
at several Huntington venues, including
Wild Fin, Black & Blue Seafood, and
"I got the idea for Hooks & Chops when
I was with Black & Blue Seafood in Huntington,"
he says. “I've had a passion for
the seafood/chophouse concept for a
while and I really wanted a place that
was centrally located for Islanders.”
Current specialties include wild Alaskan
cedar-plank roasted halibut, sweet
Thai chili calamari, blue crab beignets,
mussel pots, New York strip steak frites
with duck fat fries, and a 22-ounce cowboy
rib eye steak, prime dry-aged using
a unique process with black Hawaiian
lava salt, yielding a smoky flavor.
Signature desserts Del Lima says
are popular include bagged dropped
doughnuts, served with cinnamon and
powdered sugar; his version of milk and
cookies, which are homemade chocolate
chip cookies served with a dolce de
leche milkshake, and new-fashioned
Asked about his business flow since
opening, Del Lima explains he's "pretty
lucky," and that he has been fairly busy.
"My reputation has helped; even though
we can only seat at 50 percent, it hasn't
been too bad," he says.
He says, though that in early February,
business dropped a bit because Covid
rates in New York State started to spike
Del Lima says he knows lots of people
in the restaurant business who will
not make it out of the current crisis. He
believes it's important to support local
businesses as much as possible now.
"Without my customer base, I don't have
a business," he admits.
However, while Del Lima thinks it will
take a while to get back to some normalcy,
he feels it will happen.
"You just have to stay positive."
Hooks & Chops is at 6330 Jericho Tpke.
in Commack. It can be reached at 631-
600-0521 or hooksandchops.com
"You just have to stay positive."