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October 14, 2019Cart

Business

by Westchester County Business Journal
by WCBJ

The Rex Pizza & Lobster opens in Hartsdale

The interior of The Rex Pizza & Lobster.

Jonathan Otto, owner of recently opened The Rex Pizza & Lobster in Hartsdale, realizes that the pairing of lobster and pizza might sound slightly strange to some people.

So, he has a simple request for his potential customers.

“Come for the lobster and try the pizza,” he said.

The restaurant’s lobster is sourced every 24 hours from Maine, is never frozen and is delivered from sea to plate in less than a day.

“Really, the lobster is the star of the show,” he said. “I don’t think you can get better lobster in metro New York.”

The eatery at 247 N. Central Ave. also offers a number of coal-fired pizzas, from margherita to meat supreme. You can order a lobster roll, served on a split-top grilled bun.

“We try to showcase the lobster as simply as possible,” Otto said.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try both: a lobster a la vodka pizza pairs lobster with house vodka sauce, served with fontina cheese.

“That’s a harder sell to people,” Otto admitted, though he added that aside from plain cheese, the lobster pizza is the eatery’s best-selling dish.

The restaurant, which held its grand opening on May 17 in the former home of a RadioShack, was renovated to include a tin ceiling, wooden floors, custom tile designs and a marble bar and countertops.

A lobster roll.

“We wanted to create an ambiance that reflects the same quality as the food we serve,” Otto said.

This is not the first business venture in Westchester County for Otto. He was formerly president of Rock Bottom Stores, a chain of 40 discount drug stores that included six stores in Westchester. In 1998, Otto sold Rock Bottom Stores to Duane Reade, now part of Walgreens.

The Long Island resident is also founder and chairman of MetroCapital Realty, a real estate company he formed in 1999 that develops and manages shopping centers in the New York metropolitan and Palm Beach areas. Otto said the company has recently partnered with commercial real estate brokerage firm Ripco to form MetroRipco.

The Hartsdale restaurant marks the second Rex’s location opened by Otto. After building a shopping center in Mineola, the developer decided to open an eatery of his own in the
new center.

“I own a lot of shopping centers and I’m a former retailer and I love food, so this time around in the retail business, I wanted to do something with food,” he said.

He opened the doors of The Rex Burger & Lobster in November 2016.

“The food at the Rex is quintessential American food that Americans crave,” he said.

After finding the pairing of burgers and lobster successful, “we thought it was a creative thing to do with pizza” in Hartsdale, he said.

Otto said that similar to his chain of drugstores, he always aimed to launch a chain of eateries. He hopes to open other restaurants in New Jersey and Manhattan in the future.

The location along Central Avenue appealed to him both because of the area’s highly trafficked roads and its proximity to White Plains.

“A big part of the pizza business and a big part of our other business is delivery,” he said, adding that the eatery is just a few minutes from the city’s downtown.

The restaurateur said he may also look to open other restaurants in the county, though likely not anytime soon.

“For now, I’m going to stick with just one (in Westchester),” he said. “If I were to open a second, I would also open on Central Avenue, but closer to Yonkers.”