02/21/12 9:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Touch of Venice owners Barbara and husband Ettore Pinnaccias (from left), and brothers chef Brian and Mike Pinnaccias in their new location in Cutchoge.

To have a successful restaurant you gotta love it.

So says Rachel Levin Murphy, manager of her family’s landmark Greenport eatery, the Soundview. “It’s fabulous, fun, fascinating and challenging, but I love to work hard and I enjoy people. Every day is an adventure.”

We asked Ms. Murphy and other area restaurateurs to share their experience and advice. Their responses have been condensed and paraphrased for brevity.

Location, Location, Location

Jonathan Perkins of Cooperage Inn: Being on a main road, easy access and a free-standing building; that’s very important. It really identifies you.

Noah Schwartz of Noah’s: High visibility, as well as traffic, is important and, in our case, foot traffic. A location that fits your theme in an area receptive to your concept.

Terry Harwood of Vine Street: A neighborhood that fits your style and your projected price point, with easy access, curb appeal and high traffic. People told us we bought on the wrong side of the Island, but Shelter Island is the location, not a specific address. It doesn’t hurt that we’re on Route 114.

Jimi Rando of Sweet Tomato’s: Visibility and foot traffic. We’re in walking distance from the North Ferry, in the Heights, with great views.

Farouk Ahmad of North Fork Oyster Company: The best location depends on the type of restaurant. If you’re catering to tourists, you need to be where people walk. We’re a little off the street, a good place for people to relax and enjoy the quality of life without too much of a crowd.

Ettore Pennacchia of Touch of Venice: Being on a main road is most important. We tripled our business in the first six months after moving from Mattituck Inlet. If you’re a paint store, it doesn’t matter so much, but a restaurant needs exposure.

Ed Tuccio of Tweed’s: City sewers are important, and you need a large, year-round customer base.

Diane Harkoff of Legends: We’re in a very small town, and the ‘tucked away’ feeling, coupled with water views and a long drive past open farmland, adds to our charm. Our guests love the feeling that they’ve made a special discovery.

Alistair MacLean of La Maison Blanche: Location is not necessarily the key. It does play a part but, at the end of the day, if you have a good product, people are going to come.

Adam Lovett of A Lure and aMano: Don’t be in a rush to pick a location; look at traffic, what the area has to offer. Before opening aMano, we saw that the area was up and coming; we were willing to take a chance.


Mr. Perkins: The kitchen should be in the middle, with easy access for servers, spreading out traffic, and the dining room built around that area. Smaller, cozier rooms with soundproofing, music and candles for atmosphere.

Ms. Harkoff: Some people enjoy seeing the kitchen at the center, as part of “the show,” but I don’t want to be reminded of all the preparation. Our layout keeps the intimate dining room separate from the child-friendly, sports-themed bar.

Mr. MacLean: There’s no one right layout; some of my favorite restaurants in NYC have kitchens you can’t swing a cat in but still offer an enjoyable dining experience.

Mr. Harwood: The kitchen should be roughly one-third of the total square footage. Your bar, bathrooms and kitchen should be near the center. This makes good engineering sense and helps with flow and cross-utilization of staff.

Mr. Tuccio: We’re limited in space; we use every nook and cranny. You have to comply with all the health department and handicap laws; you have less leeway than years ago.

Mr. Rando: It’s less about layout, more about chemistry. We don’t have hard lines between the kitchen and the front of the house. The staff hangs out together; there’s lots of camaraderie.

Mr. Pennacchia: We wanted room to do private affairs. You need enough seating to make the money for your salaries, but you don’t want it to be overly big, or you can’t give proper service.

Mr. Ahmad: It’s about flow. The kitchen should be on the same level as the dining room, allowing an efficient flow of food. It should be easy and practical, no obstacles. Servers can go back to the kitchen for communication.

Mr. Schwartz: The kitchen works best in the back, unless you’re designing an open-kitchen concept. It’s nice to have a separate bar area to accommodate a livelier crowd as well as waiting patrons. Use hospitality to make your layout work. If you’re good at what you do, people will enjoy it regardless of layout.

Staffing & Service

Ms. Murphy: Find people who share your ideals. Customer service is paramount; if you don’t have good customer service, nothing is working.

Mr. Ahmad: Staffing is the hardest part; training and oversight are key. We don’t have a large pool of people to choose from. You have to work hard and be there, as the owner, 16 hours a day in the peak months. You need to make sure customers keep coming to you; they have to get what they can get in the city.

Mr. Pennacchia: Look for people who are bright, intelligent, clean-looking and trainable. No. 1 is that they’re friendly, laugh and talk with customers. Customer relations start with the waitstaff; they have to present what you’re all about. You have to treat them with respect and let them know what you expect.

Mr. Harwood: Good service is one-third of the equation. Just be nice, smart, clean, have a good work ethic and high morals and we’ll teach you the rest. In the early days, it was almost paralyzing how difficult it was to find staff; it’s gotten a little easier because we’re open year-round and can keep most of our staff employed. The payoff is when a kid who’s worked for us since she was 14 is able to graduate from college because she worked for us.

Mr. Schwartz: I look for someone I’m comfortable being around; I’m probably going to be around them more than my own family. I hire first on attitude and experience second. Good service is crucial, but so is being friendly and professional. Find people with the right attitude and some intelligence and mentor/train them to be what you’re looking for.

Mr. Lovett: Staffing is very challenging on the North Fork; there’s a different work force than in NYC or the Hamptons. You need to get started early and have a good training program. For the bar, it’s important for people to know the area and have some skills, but they can be trained. It’s more challenging to get good staff in the kitchen. Having the chef as my business partner ties ownership to the kitchen; no one else will be as invested.

Ms. Harkoff: I like to surround myself with upbeat, efficient, knowledgeable, warm and friendly people, and I’ve found that philosophy has served me well in staffing Legends. When someone is happy at their job, they do a better job. Most of our bussers are local high school students, and we’ve been fortunate in finding local residents who enjoy waiting tables here year round.

Mr. Perkins: No. 1 is personality and appearance, presentation, qualifications, ability to learn and grow with us. I wouldn’t necessarily hire a pro with impressive credentials over a young lady with a good personality who would give good service and be friendly with customers.

Mr. MacLean: Look for people with a hunger to succeed, who would treat the restaurant as if it were there own; loyalty and honesty. If they have these qualities, then training them to your expectations is the easy part. Is it the labor pool of NYC? No, but with proper training and supervision, it’s very easy to get the best out of your employees with whatever vision you have for your restaurant.

Mr. Rando: I’m a firm believer in the power of positive energy. People want to come work in the environment we’ve created. Non-team players stand out quickly.

Mr. Tuccio: When I first started, I was impressed with résumés of people who worked in fancy restaurants. You think that can carry through to your restaurant, but lots of times you’re sadly mistaken. They have to really want to do a good job and make customers happy.


Mr. Perkins: Most important is to be diversified. We draw diners and eaters. Eaters just want to have dinner; diners want the full experience, food plus ambiance. You have to put your ego aside. It’s not just what you can create, but different foods, different prices, targeting all different areas of that scale. We try to buy from all the local farms and carry all the local wines. Support local and local will support you.

Mr. Lovett: We like to keep it green. Local cheese, fish, fruits, vegetables, wine. Farmers come in, send business; it’s very gratifying. At A Lure, it’s all local; aMano serves local and Italian wines.

Mr. Rando: Everything’s made from scratch. I pick up my own supplies and ingredients. In season, we use 80-90 percent local fish and produce. Most of our meat is from Long Island and upstate New York. I like to use suppliers who can indirectly come back and support me.

Mr. MacLean: We use as many local vendors as we can. If you have a good product, word of mouth will eventually draw the customers, but clever advertising in the right publications of your targeted demographic helps. Smart use of social media in this day and age is imperative.

Mr. Harwood: Just serve good food and be consistent about it. Most of the products we use are from within 100 miles, and most of that within 25 miles. You have to visit the local artisans, wineries and farmers. Get to know them and they’ll be proud that you’re using their products.

Mr. Pennacchia: If you’re opening a new restaurant, look at the location and what it might need. Use the best ingredients. Don’t worry about cost at first. If people really like it, then worry about cost later. If you put out inferior food, you don’t deserve to make it. Top shelf all the way.

Ms. Harkoff: Our location in prime farm, fishing and wine country means we have great access to the building blocks of any cuisine, and we take advantage of that. We might give our fabulous local fresh striped bass an Asian twist one night and an Italian the next. It’s an approach that serves us well and keeps our guests coming back.

Mr. Schwartz: A distinct theme sets you apart from the competition and lets customers know what to expect. We use as many local ingredients as possible. Make friends in your community and learn who likes what they do. They typically have the best product.

Mr. Ahmad: People come for quality, fresh food, produced from the earth on the North Fork and from the sea around us. If you don’t have it you shouldn’t be in the business.

Ms. Murphy: We’re constantly updating the menu; you can’t stay static. Chef Nancy Santiago is doing incredible things with fresh, local ingredients. We always look for ways to satisfy more people, keep wide appeal and a very good price point, very good food.

Mr. Tuccio: I like to promote the agricultural crops of eastern Long Island. We grow our own bison, serve vegetables from our next door neighbor. You can’t disguise the quality of the food; North Fork people know quality. The chef and I go get the produce, go through every box. And I feed those bison every day; I know what they’re eating.

Last Words

Mr. Pennacchia: Value! Make people feel you’re giving them value and they’ll keep coming back.

Ms. Harwood: Pay your dues and get your practical experience in the best places. Owning or running a successful restaurant doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not for everybody.

Mr. MacLean: It’s very important to keep your finger on the pulse as to what the competition is doing. You might be successful right now, but you’re only as good as the last meal you have served, and restaurants come and go all the time. Never get complacent.

Mr. Tuccio: Very few restaurants are successful immediately; you get an initial bounce from curious people. It’s really important to have something unique and do it well, with the best quality ingredients you can get.

Mr. Rando: For a family business, being on the premises, staying small and independent and maintaining quality control are vital.

Mr. Perkins: The biggest thing is having knowledge. The owner has to have control of what goes on in the restaurant. If you have control, the food stays consistent.

Ms. Harkoff: Along with stamina and sufficient funding, a good, positive outlook is essential. The restaurant business is full of ups and downs. It’s not a business for someone who wants everything to run smoothly every minute of every day, but it’s a great business for someone who likes to meet new challenges and interact with an immense range of personalities.

Mr. Schwartz: It’s a hard business, but if you love what you do, you’ll never “work” another day in your life.

Ms. Murphy: It’s a whole melting pot of good things. The customers keep it interesting, combined with the staff, the weather — everything else flows from it. I’m so lucky to have a family business that suits my character. I get to break bread with people and enjoy a spectacular view.

10/31/11 12:00pm

On the day before Halloween a crowd of more than 60 Slow Food East End members and friends, several sporting costumes, sampled local food and wine at five stops along Main Street in downtown Riverhead, the site of the Slow Food East End Restaurant Crawl.

“The idea is not to get into a car, but to walk in a leisurely way, to introduce people what’s available in that particular town,” said Slow Food East End member Linda Slezak, a Riverhead Town resident who was one of the event’s chief organizers. She credited Riverhead Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill with helping secure the cooperation of the restaurants and businesses.

The slow food movement is a grass roots organization that champions local food and defines itself in opposition to fast food, according to the Slow Food International Website.

The crawl began at East End Arts where guests sampled cheeses from Goodale Farms in Riverhead. Hal and Anne Marie Goodale — owners of the cow and goat dairy farm along with partners Kevin and Laura Dunathan — were on hand to present their wares, along with cheesemaker Karen Danzer and interns Lane White of Oklahoma and Audrey Cerchiara of Upstate New York. Wines from The Lenz Winery complemented the cheese.

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The second stop on the crawl was Dark Horse Restaurant, where guests enjoyed North Quarter Farm bison paté and smoked Crescent Farms duck in the company of owner Dee Muma, a longtime supporter of local food. Long Ireland Beer Company proprietor Liam Hudock presented his Celtic Ale and pumpkin martinis. The brewery is located on Pulaski Street in Riverhead’s Polish Town.

A few doors back up Main Street, guests stopped in at the Athens Grill for modern Greek appetizers — including mini crab cakes and other seafood — prepared by owner/chef John Mantzopoulos and paired with wine from Paumanok Vineyards.

Crossing to Main Street, the Slow Food Crawl made its way to Riverhead’s newest upscale restaurant, The Riverhead Project. Owned by Dennis McDermott, former owner of The Frisky Oyster and Frisky Oyster Bar in Greenport, “tRP” has remade an old bank building into a sleek and sophisticated food destination. The Crawl menu: Crescent Farms duck confit, Mattituck Inlet Littleneck clams with a roasted grape reduction and Satur Farms fennel, all accompanied by a semi-dry riesling from Paumanok.

The final stop — for dessert, of course — was the Art Deco lobby of the Suffolk Theatre, which is undergoing renovation by owners Bob and Diana Castaldi. Guests munched on cookies baked by students from Suffolk Community College’s culinary arts program and sipped Long Ireland porter floats made with ice cream from Snowflake Ice Cream Shoppe.

Slow Food East End supports such local efforts as building school and community gardens. Proceeds from a silent auction of donated prizes will go toward those efforts. To find out more about SFEE or to join, visit slowfoodeastend.org.

JANE STARWOOD PHOTO | The first downtown Riverhead Slow Food Crawl was held Sunday. About 60 Slow Food East End members strolled along Main Street, sampling local food and wine at five stops.

01/11/11 8:00am

Salad with chickpeas, roasted vegetables, baby beets, cherry tomatoes, and arugula. Delicious vegetarian eating.

News about the healthy effects of plant-based diets seems to be cropping up everywhere these days. It reached a kind of critical mass last summer, when former president Bill Clinton slimmed down for daughter Chelsea’s wedding by switching to a whole-foods, plant-based diet, then stayed on it for its reported long-term health benefits.

Just what are the health benefits claimed for a whole-foods, plant-based diet? First, let’s define some terms:

• A vegetarian eats plant foods and no animal foods or products derived from them. Ovo-lacto vegetarians also eat eggs and dairy products; ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy products; lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs.

• Vegans eat only plants and plant-derived foods but do not necessarily exclude refined flours, sugars, etc.

• A whole-foods, plant-based diet is a vegan diet that excludes refined foods. (For brevity’s sake, in this article, “plant-based diet” means “whole-foods, plant-based diet.”)

There have been many books written on the subject of plant-based nutrition, but the best-known recent tome is “The China Study,” by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and his son, Thomas M. Campbell II. Dr. Campbell, an emeritus professor of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University, oversaw 20 years of the most comprehensive study of nutrition every conducted in partnership with Cornell and Oxford universities and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine. It’s interesting to note that Dr. Campbell grew up on a dairy farm believing milk was “nature’s perfect food,” and that his early career in biomedical research centered on the importance of animal protein. His transition to believing in the superiority of plant-based nutrition is detailed in the book.

The findings of the research known as the China Study have become something of a phenomenon since the book’s publication in 2006. (A Google search brings up in excess of a half-million results.) Four-hundred pages of densely packed information can’t be summarized in a few words, but below are some of the book’s major points, which are echoed by numerous other scholarly papers and popular books, magazines and websites. Even the American Dietetic Association recently endorsed well-chosen vegetarian and vegan diets.

Major points about “diseases of affluence” detailed in “The China Study”

Cancer: Animal protein, especially casein found in milk, causes cancer cells to grow; plant protein discourages cancer growth.  

Heart disease: Animal protein clogs arteries; a plant-based diet can stop and even, in some cases, reverse heart disease.

Obesity: The standard American diet (SAD) causes obesity; a low-fat, plant-based diet combined with moderate exercise enables permanent weight loss.

Diabetes: SAD promotes both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes; a high-fiber, plant-based diet protects against these diseases.

“Eight Principles of Food and Health”

In the book, Dr. Campbell offers “Eight Principles of Food and Health” and delineates these benefits of the healthy lifestyle he encourages: live longer, look and feel younger, have more energy, lose weight, lower your blood cholesterol, prevent and even reverse heart disease, lower your risk of many cancers, preserve your eyesight in later years, prevent and treat diabetes, avoid surgery in many instances, vastly decrease the need for pharmaceutical drugs, keep your bones strong, avoid impotence, avoid stroke, prevent kidney stones, keep your baby from getting Type 1 diabetes, alleviate constipation, lower your blood pressure, avoid Alzheimer’s, beat arthritis and more. The principles:

1. Nutrition represents the combined activities of countless food substances. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

2. Vitamin supplements are not a panacea for good health.

3. There are virtually no nutrients in animal-based foods that are not better provided by plants. [Editor’s note: The exception is vitamin B12, which is formed by microorganisms in rich soil. Dr. Campbell recommends B12 supplementation for people on plant-based diets.]

4. Genes do not determine disease on their own. Genes function only by being activated, or expressed, and nutrition plays a critical role in determining which genes, good and bad, are expressed.

5. Nutrition can substantially control the adverse effects of noxious chemicals.

6. The same nutrition that prevents disease in its early stages (before diagnosis) can also halt or reverse disease in its later stages (after diagnosis).

7. Nutrition that is truly beneficial for one chronic disease will support health across the board.

8. Good nutrition creates health in all areas of our existence. All parts are interconnected.

Adopting a Plant-Based Diet

Dr. Campbell suggests aiming to eliminate all animal-based products from your diet, but not to “obsess over it.” He gives the example of vegetable soup with chicken stock, or whole-wheat bread with a tiny amount of egg as things not to worry about. A handy chart in the chapter titled “How to Eat” lists many of the fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains you can eat freely, plus foods to minimize (refined carbs, added vegetable oils and fish) and foods to avoid (meat, poultry, dairy and eggs). This chapter also offers helpful advice for making the transition from an animal-based diet.

Part IV of “The China Study” delves into the politics surrounding food in the U.S. and the skewing of nutritional science to favor the interests of powerful food lobbies. It makes for very interesting reading, to say the least.

“The China Study,” is a must-read for anyone seeking a way to better health. I was convinced enough to gradually switch to a whole-foods, plant-based diet myself and the results tell a compelling tale. Along with daily power walking, a whole-foods, low-fat, plant-based diet has enabled me to lose 30 pounds in a little over four months. And my remaining excess fat is melting off, slowly but surely, with no hunger or cravings. I’m confident that I will eventually reach my ideal weight and be able to maintain it with my new eating and exercise habits. For a chronic yo-yo dieter like me, that’s a remarkable statement.

The best part, though, isn’t the weight loss, but my increased energy and general sense of well-being. I truly feel 30 years younger, and what could beat that?

Plant-based recipes

Very Quick Black Bean Chili

From “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease” by Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr., M.D.

This is really delicious served over brown rice or with a side of whole-grain corn bread or baked yams. It’s a very forgiving recipe, so adapt to your taste buds’ delight.

1 large onion, chopped

A little vegetable broth or water for stir “frying”

2-3 garlic cloves, chopped

2 15-oz. cans black or kidney beans (I use one of each), drained and rinsed

1 16-oz. jar salsa (as mild or hot as you like)

1 16-oz. package frozen corn

1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, chopped (optional)

1/2-1 cup cilantro, chopped (optional)

Stir-fry onion in a large nonstick pan over medium heat until soft and beginning to brown. Add garlic and continue cooking 1 minute longer. Add beans, salsa and green onions. Cover and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add corn and cook, stirring, until heated. (I run the corn under hot water to thaw before adding it to the pot.) Add cilantro just before serving.

Serves 4.

Italian-Style Pasta

From “The Gluten-Free Vegan,” by Susan O’Brien

Sort of a pasta primavera gone wild, this dish is a tasty hit with vegans and nonvegans alike. If you don’t have to eliminate gluten from your diet, you can use regular penne.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1/4 cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

5-6 cloves garlic, chopped

1 cup washed spinach, chopped

1/4 cup red wine

1/2 cup artichoke hearts in oil, chopped (or eggplant, peeled and cubed)

1 cup seeded and diced fresh tomatoes (out of season, you can use canned)

3 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (or 1 T. dried)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/4-1/2 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup capers (optional)

20 kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half

8-12 oz. rice penne, prepared according to package directions

Pour oil into a Dutch oven or large sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add roasted red bell pepper, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic. Continue to cook 2-3 minutes. Add spinach and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add wine, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, herbs, pine nuts, capers and olives. Turn heat to low and simmer until heated through and vegetables are tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or leave out the salt, as I do). Pour sauce cooked penne and toss.

Serves 6.

This story originally appeared in the Times/Review annual Health and Fitness supplement.

12/27/10 7:59am

JANE STARWOOD PHOTO | Rich Olsen-Harbich is now making wine at Bedell Cellars.

In a rapid series of moves one of them characterized as a “Rubik’s Cube,” three Long Island winemakers changed wineries this summer. Richard Olsen-Harbich, longtime winemaker at Raphael, moved to Bedell Cellars. The vacancy at Raphael was quickly filled by Les Howard, who had been making Pindar Vineyard’s wines for the past two years. And Kelly Urbanik, who had been assistant winemaker and then winemaker at Bedell Cellars since 2005, landed at Macari Vineyards. We hear that Jason Damianos will once again become head winemaker at his family’s Pindar Vineyards.

Richard Olsen-Harbich, Bedell Cellars

Rich Olsen-Harbich (of the Rubik’s Cube comment) has been deeply involved in the Long Island wine industry for some 25 years. He wrote the complex applications for the region’s three viticultural areas and helped found the Long Island Merlot Alliance. As happy as he was at Raphael, he says he was ready to take on a new challenge.

“I’m thrilled to begin working for Michael Lynne,” Rich said in a recent conversation. “Bedell has always been a company I admired and respected. It’s an opportunity to work for a passionate, dedicated owner.” He also expressed delight at working with founding winemaker Kip Bedell and the rest of the Bedell Cellars team. “They want to emphasize the local character of the wines, and that’s what I do. The North Fork provides everything we need to make a beautiful product.”

Les Howard, Raphael

With the move to Raphael, Les Howard has returned to smaller-scale, hands-on winemaking. “I was happy at Pindar and we made some great wines there, but I had to give this a shot” when the opportunity arose, he says. Les, whose roots go centuries deep in North Fork soil, has been working in Long Island wineries since his teen years, starting in the cellar at Pindar, then doing stints at Wolffer, Bedell and Jamesport before returning to Pindar two years ago. “I know winemaking here,” he says; “I learned from the best.”

“I’m really happy to be working with [vineyard manager] Steve Mudd,” Les declares. “He has a wealth of knowledge; it’s an honor to work with him. And the Petrocellis are wonderful, nice people — great to work for.” Les also likes the fact that at Raphael he’s not in the lab all the time. “I get more exercise,” he says with a big grin.

Kelly Urbanik, Macari Vineyards & Winery

I caught up with Kelly Urbanik between frantic days at Macari. They had already harvested the Pinot Noir and were in a waiting mode when we sat down to talk.

Kelly’s from Northern California, so it was a trip to home territory when she flew out to Napa to talk with Macari’s new winemaking consultant, Bob Foley, about joining the team, which also includes “flying winemaker” Helmut Gangl of Austria. They decided it was a great fit, and Kelly says she’s excited to be working with owner Joe Macari Jr.

“Joe works in the vineyard and on the soil,” Kelly says; “he’s really passionate about it. He wants to keep the quality up and he’ll do what it takes. He wants the wines to really represent this place, with a style that doesn’t mask anything: not too much oak or too much manipulation.

“The wines here are really good already,” she adds. “There’s no reason to change things dramatically. Having someone here full time will make things even better.”

The Long Island Wine Press team congratulates these three on their new positions and looks forward to tasting their new wines.