La Buena Vida, a Spanish restaurant serving authentic dishes such as tapas, seafood paella, steaks and more, opened last month in the former Watami location in Moriches.
New owners Tom Freck and Luís Nuñez have remodeled the building, which seats over 100. The deck is still being renovated and will be open in the spring. It will feature live music and a view overlooking the water.
“Tom came to me and wanted me to see this building and I said ‘No,'” recalled Nuñez, who is also the chef. Then, “I came to see it and I fell in love.”
Nuñez moved to Port Jefferson from the Dominican Republic in June 1984 and started as a dishwasher at the former Costa de España. He returned to the Dominican Republic in December of that year with no intention of coming back to New York because, he said, back then there were so few Hispanic people in the area. But his father convinced him to return that same month, saying the United States was where Nuñez would find better opportunities.
Nuñez was a dishwasher for several months, but quit because he wanted something more rewarding. He returned to the restaurant when the owner invited him to become a line chef, and he worked his way up to head chef. He bought the restaurant in 2002 and sold it in 2010.
During that time, he was a business neighbor to Freck, who owns Port Side Bar & Grill.
“Since the first time I met him, we became best friends — family even,” Nuñez said of Freck.
Nuñez and Freck visited each others’ restaurants often and decided to partner together in September.
Freck, a Center Moriches resident for the past 15 years, is glad the restaurant is taking off.
“I’m hoping that we’re here for a long time and that we’re part of the community and that everyone enjoys it,” said Freck. “Most people that lived in Moriches at one point or another had some sort of party here, whether it was Latakins or Watami, so hopefully that tradition will keep going.”