Are you wondering about what must-try Long Island food you should eat?
From seafood to Italian dishes; from delis to desserts; Long Island food is memorable and you won’t want to miss your chance to try it all when you visit.
Having grown up on Long Island, I can tell you that this food lives up to all the hype. I can also say that once you’re away from Long Island, only then do you realize that it can’t be had anywhere else.
Many of my recommendations in this post are located in Suffolk County since that’s the area I know best, but the food mentioned can be found all over the Island.
My stomach is starting to rumble so let’s jump into it as I introduce you to some of the iconic foods Long Island is known for.
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Long Island Seafood
As the name implies, Long Island is surrounded by water. It’s no surprise that seafood is at the top of the list.
With so much coastline, and access to the Atlantic Ocean, Long Island Sound, and the Great South Bay, the seafood industry is an important way of life for many.
At one time, Baymen in the Dutch-settled West Sayville produced about 80% of the world’s oysters.
Bay scallops, Blue Point oysters, clams, and crabs in addition to fish appear on many menus. Fish stores selling local catches line the South Shore of Long Island. These seafood items are a true reflection of Long Island’s maritime history.
Many fishermen and Baymen have made a living off the Long Island waters. Not as many as there once were, but enough to still bring fresh seafood to the island.
If you head “out east“, eastern Suffolk County that is, you will find even more seafood-focused menus. Catching snapper and fluke in the bay and tuna off of Montauk Point is not uncommon.
Go ahead and order some lobster roll, clam chowder, or fried calamari at Kingstons in Sayville or the Snapper Inn in Oakdale.
Delicatessens play a significant role in New York food culture. When thinking about Long Island food, visiting a deli is the first thing that pops into mind.
A Long Island food that is hard to live without is the deli sandwich.
Boar’s Head cold cuts piled high on and round hard roll or hero.
Delis are an iconic part of New York’s culinary culture. Yes, you can go to other parts of the United States, and someone will make you a custom sandwich, but it is not the same.
During the week workers head to the nearest deli for the lunch special. It will usually include a ¼ pound of cole slaw, potato or macaroni salad, and a home-brewed iced tea.
Some popular deli sandwiches would be Ovengold turkey and cheese, roast beef, breaded chicken cutlets, and the spicy Italian hero.
Cooky’s Deli in Bohemia is a great Italian family-run place to try your first Long Island deli sandwich.
Egg sandwiches are the Long Island breakfast food 2nd most missed by New Yorkers who leave town. The bagel probably edges this out for the number one spot, but not by much.
Any morning stop in a Long island deli and you will witness the ritual.
Traditionally, a breakfast special, comes with a choice of a mini carton of orange juice or a coffee or tea. The exceptional deli gives you both juice and a hot beverage.
People place their order at the counter, pay, then step to the side to self their coffee, while they wait for the foil-wrapped sandwich to appear from the kitchen.
The counter staff preps the brown paper bag and beverages, then stuffs them with sandwiches and calls out the names.
No one talks. Everyone is standing silently contemplating their workday or just trying to wake up for the day. It is all very civilized.
My guess, based on a random poll of friends and family, is that the bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll, salt, pepper (and sometimes ketchup), is the favorite order.
You may think you know what it is to eat a bagel, but once you’ve had a freshly made, warm New York bagel, nothing compares.
The recipes and techniques were brought to New York at the turn of the 20th by Eastern European Jewish immigrants.
Is it the uniqueness of the ingredients or the process that makes them special? that’s debatable, but one thing for certain is that bagels are a way of life on Long Island.
It’s a daily morning ritual to stop at the bagel store or deli to get your fix.
Schoolchildren are rewarded with bagel parties as often as they are pizza parties. The bagel is a staple at any well-hosted brunch. Grabbing a few bagels to eat when you jump on the ferry on your way to Fire Island is a must.
Hands down there is no more popular bagel than the “Everything Bagel with Cream Cheese”. Everything bagels are covered with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, salt, onion, and garlic.
All those toppings are available singularly as well. Additional bagel flavors are rye, pumpernickel, egg, egg everything, cinnamon raisin, and plain.
Higbie Bagels in West Islip is famous for its French Toast bagels which are covered in so much cinnamon sugar they need to individually wrap them. Get there early though because these are some of the best bagels on Long Island and they are known to sell out quickly.
Cream cheese is almost an art form in itself. There’s plain cream cheese, vegetable cream cheese, onion cream cheese, lox cream cheese, and the list goes on.
You can get your bagel with butter as well, but cream cheese rules.
If you can’t get enough of bagels then read this book: The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread
Thickly schmeared butter on a kaiser hard roll. If not an egg sandwich or a bagel, then this.
Diners are a welcome sight for anyone looking for Long Island comfort food. Breakfast all day, and homestyle cooked menu items, in addition to specialties such as greek salads and spanakopita.
Many sport a retro atmosphere with brightly colored vinyl booths, neon lights, and chrome accents. Oconee Diner in Islip is well known for its great food, service, and over-the-top seasonal decor.
One Long Island foodie favorite would be a visit to Maureen’s Kitchen in Smithtown. With its diner-like atmosphere and cow-themed decor, it is a famous breakfast and lunch spot in Smithtown.
Only open each day until 2 pm, long lines gather in the parking lot on weekends. For a short wait time visit earlier on a weekday. Their specials change daily and the stuffed french toast croissants are what legends are made of.
In the early 20th century, large numbers of Italians immigrated to New York through Ellis Island.
At that time, settling in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and over the past 100 years migrated eastward to Nassau and Suffolk Counties.
Today, even with hundreds of different ethnic groups existing on Long Island, over 20% of the population retains some Italian heritage.
You can read about Long Island Italians and their impact in this informative book by
Undeniably this has influenced Long Island cuisine, and Italian food is everywhere.
Popular dishes like chicken parmesan, lasagna, eggplant, and garlic knots can be found in family-run Italian restaurants.
Head to Robkes in Northport or Mama Lombardis in Holbrook for dinner and you won’t be disappointed.
And then, of course, there’s pizza…
Pizza: The Ultimate Long Island Food
If I were to guess the most popular Long Island food, I would say that food is pizza.
Pizza is served at birthday parties, classroom celebrations, backyard gatherings, and basically ordered every Friday night.
A pizza place on any Friday during the six weeks Catholics observe lent in the spring is a madhouse.
Classic Long Island-style pizzas are round, with thinner crusts, and heavy cheese, cut into 8 slices.
How to Buy and Eat Pizza on Long Island
Always sold by the slice as well as a whole pie. You will first need to find a pizza place in order to buy one. This will not be difficult as there are at least two or three in every community.
When you go in, just order at the counter and have a seat.
You can usually get two slices and a soft drink special at lunchtime.
It’s always better to eat it right there so that the bottom stays crisper.
When your order is ready they’ll yell to you, or if it’s not too busy they may even bring it to your table.
At the table, you’ll find a shaker of red pepper flakes, granulated, garlic, or Parmesan cheese. If you don’t see those things, you can go back up to the counter and ask for them.
Long Island pizza is always served on a white paper plate to soak up the oil.
That won’t be enough to soak up all that orange-tinted oil though, and you’ll have to use about 20 little cocktail-size napkins provided to you in a small dispenser on the table to get the job done.
When you lift it to take that first bite of the point, it will naturally fold itself in half. This is a two-handed lift from plate to mouth.
If you get a pie or a slice to go or to bring home it will still be just as delicious. Only a little soggier due to the amount and weight of the cheese.
Leftover pizza in the toaster oven the next day is just as amazing. Don’t worry about over-ordering.
When staring into the glass case you may notice square slices of pizza. These are probably Sicilian slices if they look thick-crusted or Grandma slices if they are topped with fresh Mozzarella and basil.
Both of these styles are commonly found at every pizza place.
Most pizza places also make specialty or stuffed slices that you can buy as a whole pie, but usually ordered as a single slice.
Some examples might be buffalo chicken, penne alla vodka slices, Sausage and broccoli rabe, and even chicken bacon ranch slices.
The choices go on and on.
One famous pizza place of note is Litlle Vincent’s in Lake Ronkonkoma. Since 1972 they serve slices of pizza heavy with oregano. You can also order a cup of cold shredded cheese to add to your hot slice. Yum.
Best of all, they are open after midnight every night and some nights as late as 4 am. The best place to stop and satisfy your munchies after a late night out on the town.
Need gluten-free pizza? Check out Donatinas in Patchogue.
Vegan pizza? Visit La Supreme in Oakdale
Long Island’s Sweet Treats
Donuts have graced long island’s food culture for many years. Dunkin’ Donuts has long been the standby.
Every Long Island kid has celebrated at least one birthday in the school with a giant box of munchkins to share.
These days there are plenty of designer donut shops to visit.
The gold standard among donuts goes to Glenn Wayne bakery. Glen Wayne delivers donuts from Bohemia to Manhattan filling the shelves of 7-Elevens and other convenience stores.
Their commercial bakery outlet in Bohemia has a retail storefront that offers an amazing array of donuts, cakes, cookies, and muffins, all at an awesome price.
You could grab a “mistake box” of muffins and pastries for the office at a steep discount. They even have a “happy hour” in the evening, where the donuts are discounted even more. It’s how they clear the shelves every evening in order to put out freshly baked products every morning.
But it’s not the price that makes Glenn Wayne donuts outstanding. It’s the donuts, themselves drenched in glaze and toppings or heavy with jelly. Very few other bakeries can compare.
Another Long Island food tradition that involves eating donuts is heading out east to pick pumpkins in October.
One must always buy some very over-priced, but delicious nonetheless, apple cider donuts at the farm. Harbes Farm is a family favorite of ours.
Long Island Bakeries
In the past, Long islanders have always headed to small, family-run bakeries and still do.
A fond Sunday morning, Long Island tradition is to munch on a huge black and white cookie, a cannoli, or some rainbow cookies. Sometimes a cheese danish was in order as well.
Audrey’s Bakery in West Sayville and Benkerts in Centereach are well-known popular bakeries.
Heading out east to enjoy some pumpkin picking and other fall festivities should lead you to Briemere Farms in Riverhead.
The farm started out years ago with a small stand selling freshly baked goods and has grown ever since.
Their strawberry pie and apple pies are so good that people drive from all over the island to get them.
As good as the classic fruit pies are, I think it is the cream pies that have made them truly legendary. A tart layer of raspberry or blueberry atop at least 2’’ of light sweet cream is one of the most scrumptious Long Island foods you can eat.
Selling ice cream in New York for nearly 100 years, Carvel is the original soft-serve ice cream.
A twist cone with chocolate crunchies or a Fudgie the Whale birthday cake is a regular Long Island summer treat.
Long Islanders know that “Wednesday is Sundae at Carvel”. Head there on a Wednesday evening when their infamous buy-one, get-one free promotion packs out the store and saves you money.
Ralph’s Famous Italian Ices
Contributing to the Italian history of Long Island food is Ralph Silvestro. Bringing his Italian ices to the region nearly 100 years ago they now have dozens of locations all over Long Island and New York City.
With dozens of flavors and variations, these icy treats are the best authentic Italian ices around.
The stores are only open seasonally, so when Ralph’s opens every March you know summer is almost here!
From fresh seafood to mouth-watering deli sandwiches, iconic bagels, and world-famous pizza, Long Island food has something to satisfy every craving.
So come and explore Long Island’s iconic food scene and discover why it’s a must-visit destination for any trip to New York.
Needing a place to stay during your visit?
Check out these Long Island accommodations.
“A City of Villages | Italian | Immigration and Relocation in U.S. History | Classroom Materials at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress.” Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA, https://www.loc.gov/classroom-materials/immigration/italian/a-city-of-villages/. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.
Balinska, Maria. The Bagel: The Surprising History of a Modest Bread. Yale University Press, 2009.
“Ice Cream History: Carvel Ice Cream History.” Carvel, https://www.carvel.com/about-us. Accessed 14 Mar. 2023.
LaGumina, Salvatore John. Long Island Italians. Arcadia Pub., 2000.
“LONG ISLAND MARITIME MUSEUM.” LONG ISLAND MARITIME MUSEUM, https://www.limaritime.org/. Accessed 12 Mar. 2023.