Big Daddy’s Restaurant in Massapequa Revs Up for Fat Tuesday on February 13th

By Michael DeMarco

Celebration bursts inside Big Daddy’s restaurant as the Louisiana legacy on Long Island braces for its 31st Mardi Gras this Tuesday, February 13th.

Owned and operated by 35-year-old Brian Sheskier, Big Daddy’s in Massapequa is a family business delivering a multi-day feast with live music and authentic Louisiana cuisine to kickstart the Mardi Gras holiday. Unchanged in tradition since 1993, the restaurant stands tall as a leading Cajun, Creole, and barbecue hub on the island.

“It’s pretty unique,” said Sheskier. “There’s Italian food on every corner, but it’s very difficult to find this type of food in this area.”

Sheskier strives to keep Big Daddy’s as authentic to Louisiana as possible, flying in fresh key ingredients from the southern US. He stocks up on alligator from Florida, and exotic meats from the Texas-based farm, Broken Arrow Ranch. The true Big Daddy’s treasure, however, is the Louisiana crawfish that Sheskier says “come in live.” 

“The whole crawfish only have a certain window of the year when they’re in season,” added Sheskier. “So, we’ll do them for Mardis Gras and a little over the next couple weeks.”

📷 Brian Sheskier, owner of Big Daddy’s in Massapequa.

Whole-body crawfish boils are a signature Big Daddy’s dish during Mardi Gras week, accompanied by 2-for-1 oyster shooters and one-of-a-kind daily specials.

Food isn’t the only attraction during Mardi Gras week. Live music dominates the schedule one night after another, featuring the soulful sounds of jazz, rock, and blues.

Long Island musician Al Santo headlined last Thursday night’s performance and animated the venue space next to Big Daddy’s full bar. After announcing he’ll “hit the blues really hard,” Santo sang ballads in the spirit of Jimmy Buffett and Elvis Presley and enlivened the audience by embodying Johnny Cash with the number “Walk the Line.”

📷 Musician Al Santo Performing at Big Daddy’s on Thursday night.

The nights leading up to Mardi Gras will also feature the bands Back on Bourbon Street, on Friday, and One Way Drive on Saturday. Tuesday brings the final event with Jack Morelli Trio performing for lunch and Bubba Jam Band closing out the big evening.

Big Daddy’s electric musical guests can only be matched by the friendly spirit shared between both staff and patrons alike.

“It’s a dream job,” said Sue Rail, a jack of all trades Big Daddy’s employee of 12 years. “I’ve been working in the restaurant business for over 30 years, and this is like my family.”

Even Frank Gaffney, a private business owner of his own ice company, Island Ice, takes pleasure in occasionally bartending as a member of the restaurant team.

Married couple Carol and Mike Ferraris enjoy the “great food and friendly affection” of the atmosphere and staff and frequent Big Daddy’s as usual customers.

Although founded in 1993, Sheskier’s father, Peter, acquired Big Daddy’s in 2001 from chef John P. Gelinas and his wife Loretta. Gelinas originated from New Orleans and brought the festive flair of Louisiana with him to New York.

The Sheskier era of Big Daddy’s maintained the original soul of the restaurant while breathing in new life, introducing in-house smoked barbecue, and expanded catering operations that serve corporate events and clients throughout Long Island and Manhattan.

Oyster Shooter

📷  Oyster Shooters.

With new favorite menu items rolling in, old favorites like gumbo and jambalaya never left, attracting regular customers and out-of-towners alike. Rail shared that a recent customer visiting from out of state ordered three quarts of gumbo “to freeze and take back home to Texas.” 

Anticipating the Tuesday celebration to come, Sheskier said Mardi Gras at Big Daddy’s “is just like a big party.”

Translated from French as “Fat Tuesday,” Mardi Gras is a carnival-like festival celebrated annually in New Orleans and is traditionally celebrated a day before Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten season. Its roots stem back to the French-Canadian explorer, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville. In 1699, he named the port of New Orleans “Pointe du Mardi Gras” to pair the timely discovery with the French tradition. 

Big Daddy’s restaurant upholds Fat Tuesday tradition to this day and, as their slogan reads, they get “Louisiana down to the bone.”

Michael DeMarco is a reporter with The SBU Media Group, part of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism’s Working Newsroom program for students and local media.

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