James and Meghan LaCourte have both spent their entire lives growing up and living in Huntington, Long Island. Despite only graduating from Huntington High School a year apart from one another, the two really met and connected in 2004 while both working at one of their favorite family owned restaurants in town, Restaurant Joanina. They both share a tremendous love for the restaurant industry, and shortly after they began dating, discussions of opening their own restaurant began to take place.
Instead of jumping into restaurant ownership right away, the two chose to further educate themselves, learn from others, and extend their careers in various ways, to prepare for their ultimate goal. James remained and grew at Restaurant Joanina through it’s transformations - the end of Renaissance Gourmet, the building of the bar, and the expansion of the restaurant and wine shop. Meghan went a different route and pursued her career in journalism, which quickly morphed into her having a role as a producer and editor for Fox News Digital with a focus solely on food & wine. After Fox, Meghan worked in restaurant marketing — helping independent restaurants find a voice for themselves on the internet through social media. Little did they know, that their experiences over many years, would help them so greatly in their upcoming venture.
Aside from their growing careers, they attended wine school weekly at the American Sommelier Association in Manhattan where they grew their knowledge and passion for wine, and they launched their first business together called Grape Gatherings, which focused on wine education in a fun and exciting way.
Fast forward 15 years from when they first met, and you will find James & Meghan now married, and still living in Huntington. Their love for their home town is only rivaled by their passion for great hospitality and experiencing new and exciting foods and wine. This passion led them to open Leilu in the summer of 2019, so they can hopefully share what they have not only learned in their 25+ years in the restaurant world, but provide the type of service and quality of food that simply will make people happy.
The design and decor of Leilu is, in a way, a reflection of how their menu was built. A sense of comfort and home, yet with a modern edge. The menu itself will hold on to some guest favorites, but rotate through seasonal ingredients in order to hold true to sourcing locally and supporting local Long Island and New York businesses.
James and Meghan have two beautiful girls, whom the restaurant is named after, Leila and Lucie — and it is the girls who inspire James and Meghan to work harder each and every day.
You will be sure to find one or both of the owners at Leilu every night, working alongside a team they are proud to have as a part of the Leilu family — and they truly look forward to creating a special experience for their guests, if even in a small way, while dining at their home away from home, Leilu.
My name is Marni and I am the artist behind the shells!
I have been painting for 25 years. Art has always been part of my life but then came career, life, marriage, 2 kids, and just the day to day busy life. Painting took a backseat for many years.
Life took an unexpected turn in March 2020 when my brother Marc was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer completely unexpectedly. He quickly declined and passed away 2 months later on May 16, 2020. Marc was an avid surfer on Long Island, a mastering artist and musician, and he lived every day to the absolute fullest... with this loss came a major reassessment of my life!!!
In my grief, I also felt inspired to LIVE MY LIFE with NO REGRETS. After a summer full of beach visits and tributes for Marc, I found my house filled with shells from his LI surfing spots. Something (probably Marc) led me to start back with my art. I had the idea to use one of my many shells as my canvas and I made a gift for my friends birthday; a jewelry dish for a necklace I bought her. This one thought turned into a few friends and family seeing and wanting their own shell.
Now, with my business officially formed in October 2020, I have NOT stopped! I have created hundreds upon hundreds of shells for local stores, custom orders, shipping all over the country and Long Island.
I travel miles and miles on the shores of Long Island, hand picking each shell which range in sizes from 1”-6” all hand painted with the option of custom ordering or adding a photo overlay of the customer's favorite photo. Popular choices are memorials of loved ones, pets, engagement/wedding, family, favorite scenes and tributes.
I have learned that with struggle comes triumph “for tomorrow may rain so I’ll follow the sun.”
Thanks for reading my story!
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