Joey Abitabilo, Executive Chef of Shelter Harbor Golf Club in Charleston, R.I. was born in the Bronx, N.Y., where he was exposed at an early age to excellent traditional Italian cooking from his mother and extended family.
From the age of 10, he helped to cook the Christmas Eve Dinner, which included fresh pasta and a “Feast of Seven Fishes” at his uncle’s house for a group of 20. He was hooked. From the age of 15, Chef Abitabilo worked steadily after school at the Tarrytown Conference Center and Sunningdale Country Club, until attending Duke University for his undergraduate degree.
At Duke, Chef Abitabilo majored in political science and was thinking about a career in law or banking. At the end of his freshman year, he had a prestigious internship with Goldman Sachs’ Mergers and Acquisitions division in London, England.
While it was a great experience, this position made him realize that the kitchen was where he really wanted to be. While a full-time student at Duke, Chef Abitabilo worked at the Magnolia Grill in Durham, N.C., under James Beard award-winning chef/owners Ben and Karen Barker. There, he learned the basics of seasonal, creative cuisine, presented in an upscale and artistic way.
After graduating, Chef Abitabilo moved to San Francisco to work for Chef/Author Cindy Pawlcyn at two of her restaurants, Bix and the Buckeye Roadhouse. Before long, he had worked his way up to the Executive Chef level. He then decided to take a position as a Chef Instructor at the New England Culinary Institute (NECI) in Montpelier, Vt. The teaching and exposure to other chefs and instructors broadened and sharpened Chef Abitabilo’s skill set. Through several years at NECI, he rose through the ranks to the Program Director level.
Chef Abitabilo then left NECI to return to the fast-paced world of club kitchens, holding Executive Chef positions at North Hills Country Club in Manhasset, N.Y., and Woodland Golf Club in Auburndale, Mass., before taking his current position at Shelter Harbor Golf Club.
Shelter Harbor GC, situated on nearly 400 acres of open space with a permanent prohibition on development, is the first private course built in Washington County, R.I., in over 100 years. Chef Abitabilo’s cuisine is served in timber-trussed dining and grill rooms built around a massive stone fireplace, and a gazebo with balconies and screened-in dining areas that offer magnificent views of the golf course and daily sunsets.